MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. - Early last season, Josh Johnson approached Rich Dubee at Citizens Bank Park with a modest request. The Marlins ace asked the Phillies pitching coach if he could stand and observe one of Roy Halladay's bullpen sessions.

Dubee turned to Halladay for permission.

"He told me, 'You can stay,' " Johnson recalled Monday. "I watched pretty intently."

Comparisons between Halladay and Johnson will continue as long as both carve through the National League. And because these two teams face each other 18 times a season, there is an off chance that baseball fans everywhere will be treated to a pairing of the two like Tuesday night.

"I still think Roy is the best pitcher," Shane Victorino said, "but you could arguably say Josh Johnson is in that category."

Twice in 2010, Halladay and Johnson opposed each other. Thirty-two innings thrown by the two righthanders yielded one earned run. One steamy night in May at Sun Life Stadium produced history - Halladay threw a perfect game, with Johnson the losing pitcher because of an unearned run.

So there are high expectations for the third meeting.

Halladay has a 2.19 ERA in seven starts, two of them complete games, with 57 strikeouts against seven walks. Since joining the Phillies, Halladay has lost one game against teams from the National League East. That defeat came June 10, 2010, against Johnson and Florida.

Johnson has a 1.68 ERA in seven starts with 46 strikeouts and 15 walks. He has allowed just 26 hits in 481/3 innings.

 The righthander apparently has gained Halladay's respect. After the stoic Phillies pitcher permitted Johnson to watch his bullpen session, the two spent time together at the All-Star Game in Anaheim, Calif. When Johnson walked into the National League clubhouse, Halladay came up and said hello.

"Whoa," Johnson said. "This is, like, the Roy Halladay."

That bond stuck.

"I was like a little brother to him," said Johnson, 27. "I was kind of following him around and trying to pick his brain about what he does after starts, in between starts."

Dubee raves about the downward angle the 6-foot-7 Johnson creates. Combine that with the fact that his fastball regularly hovers around 95 m.p.h. and there is the formula for success.

"He's not afraid to challenge you with 95 consistently," Victorino said. "But he's also smart, too."

So is Halladay, and that is why many are eager for this game.

"I get excited," Charlie Manuel said, "as long as my guy wins."

Injury front

Dubee has targeted Roy Oswalt (back) to make his return from the disabled list a week from Tuesday against St. Louis. The righthander will throw another bullpen session Tuesday and is scheduled for a minor-league rehab game Thursday - likely at single-A Clearwater.

With Thursday's off day, the Phillies will skip the spot vacated by Oswalt and pitch Cole Hamels on regular rest on Friday.

Oswalt could be joined in Florida by Carlos Ruiz (back), who will be in Clearwater beginning Tuesday to play in some games. He is eligible to be activated Friday.

Chase Utley (knee tendinitis) played in his second extended spring training game and was 1 for 7 with two strikeouts. Utley played four innings at second base after taking a day off from playing. The Phillies did not say when Utley would play again.

Extra bases

Ross Gload started for just the second time in 34 games this season. Both of his starts have come against Marlins starter Javier Vazquez.