Unit makes first rehab start with Visalia

Johnson hit up for two runs, strikes out four in six innings of work

(Adrian Mendoza/Modesto Bee via AP)

April 8, 2007 3:45 PM

MODESTO, Calif. -- Pitching about 50 miles from where he grew up, Randy Johnson made a very successful rehab start Sunday afternoon for Visalia in front of a near-capacity and supportive crowd at John Thurman Field.

Johnson allowed two runs on four hits in six innings, striking out four without issuing a walk in Modesto's eventual 3-2 victory. He threw 73 pitches -- 57 for strikes.

He was given a couple of standing ovations a couple times from the crowd of 4,192.

"It was a great reception," Johnson said. "It was exciting to come out, even though I'm the visiting pitcher, to get a nice ovation from the fans.

"[My hometown] Livermore is not that far away. I think they know I'm a local. Other than the loss, by the team, everything was a positive. From my standpoint, I was pretty pleased. I was not content, but pleased with how it went."

Johnson's older brother and his family attended the game, as did Johnson's son. He spent $2,200 on a catered meal from Outback for the Oaks players.

The first seven Nuts were retired on Johnson's 24 pitches. Daniel Carte doubled to the left-center gap in the third inning. One out later, Eric Young Jr. singled between third and short to score Carte.

"It tells you how old you are when you're facing Eric Young's son," 42-year-old Johnson said. "I guess that puts things in perspective."

Shortstop Chris Nelson opened the fourth with a single and scored on Philip Cuadardo's double that one hopped the left-field wall to make it 2-0. The Nuts worked Johnson for 20 pitches in the fourth.

"If I were to come out and cruise, I wouldn't get any work in," Johnson said. "I had some comebackers. I had to hold some runners on base. I had one inning with a runner at third with one out, so the competitive juices are flowing. It's just like what I would do against a Major Leaguer, but against a Minor Leaguer."

Johnson, who estimated he was at 70 percent ability, retired the final nine batters he faced. Most importantly, he reported no problems with his back.

His tentative schedule is to pitch for Triple-A Tucson on Friday, then perhaps return to the Majors on April 18.

"As a power pitcher, you have to throw the innings to get the arm strength up," Johnson said. "That's what Spring Training is for. I'm still a good 9-12 innings behind where I'd want to be right now. Most pitchers break camp with 20-25 innings. I have 11 innings now.

"The radar gun won't light up like it used to be. But my location is great. I haven't walked a batter. I'm pretty happy with how things are going."

Josh Suchon is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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