Los Angeles (44-34) at Arizona (45-34)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Phoenix, AZ
Temp: 79° F
  • Game info: 6:40 pm EDT Thu Jun 28, 2007
  • TV: KCAL, FSAZ
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Randy Johnson admits he isn’t certain how long his back will hold up, so the Arizona Diamondbacks left-hander is especially eager to return to the rotation.

Johnson takes the mound for the first time since June 10 in Thursday’s finale of a four-game series between the Diamondbacks (45-34) and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The 43-year-old left-hander, who has won his last four decisions, said he had no lingering problems following a two-inning simulated game on Monday. He was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a herniated disc in his back on June 11.

“Today was a big day,” Johnson said after the simulated game. “I didn’t feel that bad, relatively speaking. It’s nothing that I haven’t felt already - last year when I was pitching or earlier this year.”

Johnson struggled with back problems last season while with the New York Yankees. He underwent surgery in October and started this season on the disabled list, leading to concerns about his durability.

Johnson (4-2, 3.52 ERA) said he is unsure whether his latest stint on the disabled list will be his last.

“I don’t know how much longer I can pitch with it,” Johnson said. “So I’m going in with a positive frame of mind. I’ll go as hard as I can as long as I can. When I was in New York, I pitched through a lot of discomfort.”

He added that he would prefer to avoid surgery.

“I guess I can always fall back on surgery,” Johnson said. “I’ve only made nine starts coming off my last surgery and I have probably about 18 more. Let’s just get through the Dodger start and not kind of look too far down the road.”

Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin plans to keep Johnson’s pitch count around 85.

“It just depends on how he feels,” Melvin said. “In the past it’s bothered him sometimes and he’s pitched through it, and other times he’s felt good.”

Johnson is 7-5 with a 2.71 ERA in 21 starts against the Dodgers. This will be his first time facing them since 2004.

The Diamondbacks head into Thursday’s game against Los Angeles (44-34) trying to salvage a split of the series. After losing the first two games of the set, Arizona won 2-0 on Wednesday.

Chad Tracy and Eric Byrnes each drove in a run while Brandon Webb allowed seven hits over seven innings to keep Arizona one percentage point behind San Diego for the NL West lead.

“If there was a must-win this year, that was it,” Melvin said. “But we still have quite a ways to go.”

Randy Wolf (8-6, 4.32) looks to bounced back from two straight losses for the Dodgers, who are one-half game behind the Diamondbacks and Padres. The left-hander allowed four runs and 10 hits in 6 2-3 innings on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in a 4-3 loss.

Wolf, who is 1-3 with a 6.35 ERA in his last four starts, is facing the Diamondbacks for the second time this season. He allowed six runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings on April 30 in a 9-1 loss.

Overall, Wolf is 4-2 with a 4.07 ERA in nine career starts against Arizona.

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Starting Pitchers

R. Wolf Tor vs. R. Johnson SF
9-6 Record 4-3
4.73 ERA 3.81
94 K 72
39 BB 13
1.45 WHIP 1.15

Scoreboard

Thursday, Jun 28