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Johnson rusty but pain-free in return

TUCSON, Ariz. — Randy Johnson was happy to pitch without pain. Still, he was disappointed with the results of his first outing since back surgery.

The left-hander gave up three runs and four hits, including a three-run homer by Chris Iannetta, in 11/3 innings Monday during Arizona's 10-9 victory over the NL champion Rockies. Johnson walked one and struck out one.

"Minus the results today, there was a lot of positive things," he said. "But as competitive as I am, I'm still disappointed that I would pitch like that."

Johnson, 44, returned to the mound for the first time since June 28. Last summer, he had back surgery for the second time in less than a year, but Monday he said he felt healthy.

"I've got a long ways to go, but I'm just happy to be able to get out there and pitch pain-free," he said. "Comparing today to the last time I pitched at Chase (Field), it's night and day. So I'm happy about that. The results will come as I pitch more."

In the first, Johnson gave up a one-out double to Troy Tulowitzki, then got Todd Helton to foul out to the catcher and struck out Matt Holliday to end the inning.

Trouble came quickly in the second, when Garrett Atkins and Brad Hawpe opened with sharp singles. Johnson fell behind 3-0 to Iannetta, who hit a long homer to left.

"It's nice to know your swing is doing pretty good," Iannetta said. "Then again, Randy is just out there getting his work in. He's going to be a different pitcher during the season."

Johnson then walked Jayson Nix before Cory Sullivan flied out. That's when manager Bob Melvin lifted Johnson, who threw 33 pitches, 20 for strikes. The five-time Cy Young Award winner left to a standing ovation from fans behind the visitors' dugout at Hi Corbett Field.

"I'm not looking too much at results," Johnson said. "I'm looking to gain some endurance and stamina and work on my location and all those other little things on top of monitoring my back at the same time."

BLUE JAYS: Ace right-hander Roy Halladay called his performance against the Astros — four innings, three runs, six hits and five strikeouts — "okay." He was happier to get acquainted with new catcher Rod Barajas, who caught Halladay for the first time. "We just did some different things, and some of them didn't work," Halladay said. "It's kind of a learning experience. The last two innings were a lot better than the first two."

BRAVES: Left-hander Mike Hampton will pitch Wednesday as scheduled but in a simulated game rather than that night's exhibition against Cleveland. Manager Bobby Cox said the former Crystal River standout looked good during a bullpen session but did have a little tightness in his right groin during his last few pitches.

DODGERS: Closer Takashi Saito took a step forward in recovery from a strained calf muscle. The right-hander threw a 23-pitch bullpen session at Dodgertown and reported no pain.

GIANTS: Left-hander Noah Lowry completed his first full day of conditioning since left elbow surgery and said he could be playing catch in a little more than a week. Lowry is targeting mid April for his return to the mound.

METS: Centerfielder Carlos Beltran went 0-for-3 as the DH in his first game this spring. The All-Star had offseason surgery on both knees and still isn't 100 percent. And first baseman Carlos Delgado returned from a sore right hip that had kept him out all month. His swing looked rusty, and he went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts.

PHILLIES: The team has lost five in a row and seven in eight games, and manager Charlie Manuel said it's apparent why: His starters have a 10.85 ERA and have permitted 33 earned runs over 212/3 innings during the past eight games. "Somewhere along the line, we've got to start holding them," Manuel said. "I'd like to see somebody keep us in a game. People say these games don't count, but every time you pick up a ball to pitch, these games count for you personally."

PIRATES: With leftfielder Jason Bay and rightfielder Xavier Nady likely to be sought in trades this season, top first-base prospect Steve Pearce has been shifted to the outfield.

RANGERS: Starter Brandon McCarthy likely will start the season on the disabled list with inflammation in his forearm. The right-hander is expected to be sidelined four to six weeks.

ROYALS: Right-hander Hideo Nomo looked solid again in his bid for the starting rotation, pitching two strong innings after a shaky first against the Giants. Nomo gave up two runs and four hits overall in three innings after not allowing an earned run over five innings in two relief appearances.

YANKEES: Actor/comedian Billy Crystal will sign a one-day minor-league contract and play in Thursday's game against the Pirates. Crystal, a Yankees fan, will work out Wednesday and wear uniform No.  60 for the game, to be played one day before his 60th birthday.

Best bet of the day

Yankees vs. Blue Jays, 1:15, Legends Field, Tampa: With the Pirates and Phillies off, this matchup between AL East foes could be interesting. Especially if there's a play at the plate.


Blue Jays: Knology Park, 373 Douglas Ave., Dunedin. Game tickets: (727)

733-9302 or

Phillies: Bright House Field, 601 N Old Coachman Road, Clearwater. Game tickets: (727) 467-4457 or

Yankees: Legends Field (1 Steinbrenner Drive in Tampa). Game tickets:

(813) 879-2244 or

Johnson rusty but pain-free in return 03/10/08 [Last modified: Thursday, October 28, 2010 9:35am]
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