PHOENIX (AP) -One week after being diagnosed with a herniated disk, Randy Johnson looked sharp in a simulated game on Monday and could be close to returning to Arizona's starting rotation.
Johnson, on the disabled list since June 11, threw 41 pitches over two innings to teammates Jeff DaVanon and Augie Ojeda before the Diamondbacks played the Los Angeles Dodgers.
``I'm pretty encouraged by what I saw today,'' manager Bob Melvin said. ``I was surprised at how well he threw. Everything was there - sharp slider, and he threw really well.''
Melvin wouldn't commit to a date for Johnson's return until he sees how the back responds Tuesday. If Johnson feels good, he could start against the Dodgers in the finale of their four-game series Thursday and bump struggling right-hander Livan Hernandez.
Johnson did not speak with reporters after the session.
``He worked both sides of the plate,'' DaVanon said. ``He just basically looked like where he left off. His location was strong.''
The 43-year-old lefty had back surgery in October and started the season on the disabled list. Johnson is 4-2 with a 3.52 ERA.

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