SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) -Randy Johnson threw another batting practice session Tuesday and hopes to pitch in a game for the Arizona Diamondbacks after his next side session.
``I threw a few more pitches, another step forward to pitching in a game,'' Johnson said after the 36-pitch outing. ``So we'll see how I feel.''
After another side session Saturday, the 44-year-old left-hander plans to sit down with manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Bryan Price to ``see when they want to slot me in.''
Johnson is returning from back surgery in August, his second such operation in less than a year. The Big Unit is going into the final season of a two-year, $26 million contract he signed after being traded back to Arizona from the New York Yankees and is 16 victories shy of 300 in his career.
The latest pitching session, five days after he first threw batting practice, was on one of Kansas City's practice fields at the Surprise complex before the Diamondbacks' game against Texas. He faced three rotating batters, with Jesus Merchan hitting a home run on the first pitch after Johnson took a short break.
Johnson took a break after 19 pitches, then went back for 17 more. During the session that simulated a two-inning outing, Johnson went through his full repertoire of pitches.
``He's very encouraged,'' Melvin said. ``His back, knock on wood, hasn't given him any problems. It's free and easy. ... He still has the stuff to be a dominating force. But health is the major concern and he knows not to push it.''
The five-time Cy Young Award winner has undergone surgery to repair a herniated disk each of the past two seasons. He had only 3 1/2 months to recover before spring training last year and now believes he rushed back too soon. He also had back surgery in 1996.
By time Diamondbacks pitchers and catchers reported to camp 2 1/2 weeks ago, Johnson had already thrown three bullpen sessions in Phoenix.
``I've thrown a lot of bullpens now and I've got my endurance up now and throwing to some hitters now, and so I think everything's been a step in the right direction. No setbacks or anything and my endurance has come along,'' Johnson said. ``Obviously, the next progressional step would be to pitch in a game. When, I don't know. But soon, hopefully.''

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