Big Unit to pitch Monday on short rest
MIAMI — It may lack the drama of his postseason relief appearances, but on Monday, Randy Johnson will start for the Giants against the Florida Marlins on three days’ rest. That’s one fewer than usual.
Johnson’s last appearance, of course, was a big one — last Thursday’s six-inning, two-hit effort at Washington that made him the 24th Major Leaguer to win 300 career games. That came in the first game of a doubleheader in which both Johnson and Matt Cain pitched, which threatened to disrupt the Giants’ starting rotation because one of the two would have had to work on short rest if the club didn’t add a Triple-A pitcher (most likely Billy Sadler) to start on Monday.
But Johnson, who happened to bruise his shoulder in a fall while making a fielding play in his final inning against Washington, volunteered to pitch after a successful throwing session Saturday.
“He knows himself better than anybody,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of Johnson, 45.
Johnson has maintained since joining the Giants that he wasn’t consumed with collecting the five wins he needed to reach 300. The left-hander said last Friday in the wake of his milestone triumph that the post-300 portion of the season was what he signed for — doing as much as possible to bolster the Giants’ postseason bid. His willingness to pitch Monday proved that.
“It validates Randy saying that it’s not just 300 he’s after,” Bochy said. “He wants to help the organization and the team win ballgames. Here he is wanting the ball Monday after he could be pushed back a day or two. But he wants the ball tomorrow.”
Johnson last started on three days’ rest while pitching for the New York Yankees in 2005. He allowed two runs and seven hits while walking none and striking out eight in seven innings in a 12-3 Yankees victory over Baltimore on July 5. He was coming off absorbing the decision in a 10-2 Yankees loss to Detroit on July 1 in which he yielded seven runs and nine hits in five innings — and, significantly enough, threw only 80 pitches. Johnson threw 78 pitches last Thursday.
For what it’s worth, Johnson’s career record on three days’ rest is stellar. In nine starts, he’s 6-1 with a 2.84 ERA, 16 walks and 80 strikeouts in 63 1/3 innings. He averaged 11.4 strikeouts per nine innings in those games, allowed opponents to hit just .195 off him and compiled a ridiculously low .0963 WHIP (average walks and hits per inning).
Bochy’s right. Johnson knows what he’s doing.
Many moons ago, the Big Unit cemented his legend with the aforementioned relief appearances. In the 1995 AL Division Series, he threw three innings against the Yankees to help send Seattle to the AL Championship Series. In the World Series six years later with Arizona, he won Game 6 as a starter before returning the next night to earn the decision in Game 7 while recording the final four outs.
– Chris Haft