Randy Johnson probably thought he’d be making this start for another team.
With the trade deadline looming, the intimidating left-hander could be making his final appearance for the Arizona Diamonbacks when they open a three-game series with the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.
Johnson, the hottest commodity on this summer’s trade market, has been rumored to be headed to any number of teams, including Los Angeles, the New York Yankees and most recently, the Anaheim Angels. But the Big Unit is apparently staying put for at least one more start with the Diamondbacks.
“He’s starting tomorrow and batting ninth,” Arizona manager Al Pedrique said.
While Johnson has done his best to keep his intentions quiet, reports indicate that he was interested in waiving his no-trade clause only if he was dealt to the Yankees. But Arizona general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. is apparently not impressed with New York’s minor league prospects and the teams have not been able to successfully lure a third team into a potential deal.
Johnson has not let the non-stop media blitz surrounding his trade status affect him on the mound. He pitched brilliantly Sunday against the Rockies at Bank One Ballpark, scattering six hits over eight dominant innings while striking out 14 without a walk. However, the Arizona bullpen collapsed in the ninth, leaving Johnson without a decision in the major league-worst Diamondbacks’ 3-2 loss to the Rockies.
“I’m not talking about any of that (trade) stuff, OK?” Johnson said Thursday. “I’ll talk on the day I pitch, after the game—and only about the game.”
Johnson is 0-2 in his last four starts despite allowing just five earned runs over 27 innings. He leads the majors in strikeouts (174), ranks third in opponents’ batting average (.191) and fourth in ERA (2.68). He’s also pitched three complete games and a perfect game against Atlanta on May 18.
Johnson’s record would almost certainly be better than 10-8 if he had more support in the bullpen and from the league’s fourth-worst offense.
“You would hate to lose a guy like him,” Pedrique said. “For myself, though, I have to anticipate that’s it going to happen.”
The Diamondbacks earned a split of their four-game series with Houston on Thursday, pulling out a 6-4 win behind rookie pitcher Lance Cormier and a two-run homer from Shea Hillenbrand. Arizona, which snapped a club-record 14-game losing streak on Monday against Houston, hadn’t split a series since June 28-July 1 against San Diego.
However, outfielder Luis Gonzalez announced that he’ll have season-ending ligament replacement surgery on his right elbow on Monday, but expects to return to the Diamondbacks by next spring. The left fielder has played all season with a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament, feeling pain on every throw to the infield. The ligament connects bones in the upper and lower arm.
The Rockies are coming off a split of four-game set with Los Angeles, including Thursday’s 3-2 loss. Todd Helton hit his third homer in four games, but Jeromy Burnitz’s streak of homering in six straight home games came to an end.