|Big Unit says he's pleased with minor league tuneup|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 19 April 2007 18:25|
Now he'll wait for word that he's rejoining the team.
The 43-year-old left-hander, who had back surgery in October, allowed two runs and six hits in six innings, walking one and striking out seven in a start for Triple-A Tucson against Salt Lake.
``Knowing that it was most likely my last (minor league) start, I wanted to walk away from today's game feeling confident with how I finished up the game,'' Johnson said after throwing 95 pitches, 65 for strikes. ``I feel comfortable leaving here with what I have.''
The Diamondbacks have not said when they plan to activate Johnson. The team is in San Francisco for a weekend series, but Johnson said he would go home to Phoenix and work out there.
Johnson's next start could come against San Diego on April 24 in Chase Field.
``I have no idea,'' Johnson said. ``All I was told to do was come down here and pitch and then we'll discuss it. They haven't told me anything.
``I'll continue to work out with my trainer and throw at (Chase Field) and be prepared to pitch whenever they tell me,'' he said.
On a windy night in the desert, the five-time Cy Young Award winner looked shaky early on, giving up hits to four of the first eight Bees he faced.
But he soon found his rhythm, striking out four in a row in the third and fourth innings.
``It took me a little while to get in the flow of the game,'' Johnson said. ``Then obviously as the game progressed, my location got much better, my mechanics got a lot better, and my pitch selection. So I was very pleased with the last four innings that I threw.''
The game's second batter, Jeff Mathis, hit a double over the center fielder's head. Brandon Wood followed with a liner through the box that nearly hit Johnson and drove in Mathis.
Johnson gave up another run in the second. He gave up a bloop single to Mike Eylward, a double down the right field line to Adam Pavkovich and a long sacrifice fly to center field by the No. 9 hitter, Coby Smith.
In the third, Johnson gave up back-to-back singles to Mathis and Wood but retired the next three hitters, two on strikeouts.
It was Johnson's second rehabilitation start for Triple-A Tucson, and his third overall.
Arizona manager Bob Melvin has not said whose spot Johnson will take when he returns. The likeliest candidate to be dropped from the rotation is right-hander Edgar Gonzalez, who is 1-1 with a 5.40 ERA and has given up nine runs in his last 13 1-3 innings.
Right-hander Micah Owings (1-1 with a 2.93 ERA) strained his hamstring Tuesday, and the club hasn't said whether he will make his scheduled start Sunday at San Francisco.
Johnson was asked what drives him as he prepares to open his 19th season in the majors.
``It's just the competition,'' Johnson said. ``It's my outlet. It's one of those things that it's a lot more challenging now to be as good as I once was, and maybe I won't be as good as I once was, but it's definitely a challenge.''