This afternoon was quite possibly the first time Randy Johnson ever faced the Arizona Diamondbacks, the team whose hat he is likely to be wearing when he enters Cooperstown. He came to us in 1999, and has never pitched against Arizona in a regular season game. Since then, the only other team he has been with is the Yankees, and they are in the Grapefruit League, so he'd not have faced the Diamondbacks in spring. I say 'quite possibly', simply because I can't find any boxscores from the Cactus League in 1998, when he could conceivably have faced Arizona when he was with Seattle. Not likely though.
D'you think Johnson might have been revved up for this one and felt he had something to prove? It certainly seems to have been the case, as the Big Unit struck out no less than seven Diamondbacks in just three innings, making his first appearance against his old team since signing with the Giants earlier in the off-season. He gave up hits to Conor Jackson and Ryan Roberts and walked Chris Young, but shut Arizona out otherwise. He refused to say anything after the game, but you know he must have been pleased to stick it to those who offered what could be taken as a derisory offer. He did have kind words for Jackson, but the main target of his praise was, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Miguel Montero:
"The only person I really had any kind of ... was maybe Montero. I really like him. That's why he caught me. He's a good catcher. He listened to me. I don't know everything; I don't claim that, but he wanted to learn and that's why he caught me. I think if he was to play every day, he'd probably hit 25 home runs, bat .265 to .270 and probably have 65 to 70 RBIs. He's that good of a hitter." Johnson also joked that he was going to say something to Montero, but that Montero was busy "picking up the splinters of his bat" after he grounded out back to the mound.
Our catcher was equally complimentary: "I really enjoyed catching him. He showed me a lot of things. He was a really great guy to me. I hear a lot of things like he was really quiet, really mean, but he wasn't to me. He was a great guy to me." Really, that's an odd couple: would never have put them together. Reading between the lines, one wonders why Johnson didn't get along with Snyder, and what the first "..." in the quote above actually was. I also suspect the potential but unrealized departure of Montero - Johnson's 'personal catcher' who caught 20 of RJ's 30 starts last year - might have been a factor in letting the Big Unit go.
Enough of Johnson: I promise not to mention him again until we have to face him in the regular season. Equally impressive - if not even more so - was Doug Davis, who retired all six Giants batters he faced, in two perfect innings of work. That was a marked change to his first outing where he had to be rescued in the second frame, and allowed six runs. He almost didn't make it today; apparently, Davis has a nerve issue in his left arm, which was playing up before the game. The drug he uses to control it is Neurontin, the Pfizer brandname for Gabapentic - it's also used to relieve neuropathic pain caused by shingles, herpes, etc. Rather disturbingly, among the potential side-effects of the drug are 'thoughts of suicide'. Good job he's not playing for the Padres...
Rauch followed Davis and was similarly much improved on his previous outing, with a scoreless inning. Admittedly he was helped by an ill-advised attempt to steal third by Frandsen, which turned into a K/CS double-play. Tony Barnette allowed one run in his two innings of work, on a solo homer, and the Diamondbacks looked to be in command, leading 5-1 after five innings. The offense all came after Johnson left the game [okay, now I won't mention him again!], the Diamondbacks beating up on the Giants' R. Ortiz to the tune of five runs on seven hits and a walk over the fourth and fifth. No: it's not that R. Ortiz: Ramon, rather than Russ. The latter is trying to make the Astros rotation and has allowed one run in five innings to date - at least he won't be doing so on our dime this year.
We scored twice in the fourth and three more times in the fifth. The former came on RBI singles by Chris Roberson and Josh Whitesell, and we left the bases loaded. The latter was even more explosive: Rusty Ryal singled with one out and scored on an Upton triple. Our uberprospect came home on a bad throw; he would have scored anyway as Pedro Ciriaco doubled, and Montero added an RBI single of his own. However, that was it for production from the Diamondbacks offense, until Frey had an RBI double with two outs in the ninth, which made it 7-6 to the Giants. Roberson then almost tied the game, but a diving catch in short left-field took away a hit and gave victory to San Franciso - former D-back Brandon Medders got his second win of spring for pitching a scoreless eighth.
"Hang on..." you may be thinking. "The last time you mentioned the score, we were 5-1 up. How did the Giants score six runs before we got out next man across the plate?" Well, the lead Arizona had entirely evaporated in the sixth, thanks to an unfortunate combination of Jailen Peguero and Ryal. The former gave up three hits, including homer with a man aboard in his inning of work, while our third baseman had an almost Reynoldsesque frame, committing two errors which resulted in a pair of unearned runs. Slaten came in for a scoreless inning despite allowing two hits. Clay Zavada was not so lucky, three hits leading to two runs for San Francisco, just enough to hold off our final comeback. Montero had two hits for Arizona, while Upton and Evan Frey each had a hit and a walk, while driving in a run.
Off the park, the team took care of business, signing all 22 of their players who don't yet have enough service time for arbitration. 21 of those agreed to one-year contracts, with the lone standout being Mark Reynolds - who simply had his renewed unilaterally by the Diamondbacks. Those who think indentured servants are a thing of the past, might want to look at the world of young baseball players, who have little or no say in their contracts. Mind you, with the league minimum salary close to $400K, I can't really feel they're particularly oppressed.
Rockies lost again. They're 0-7 on the season, and while there are few things as meaningless as spring training games, one senses a certain degree of nervousness over at Purple Row as the streak extends - it's now ten in a row, since they lost the final three contests in 2008. Maybe this is the payback for their surge at the end of 2007; still, better to get it out of the way in the Cactus League! We'll be looking at the Rockies in more depth later this week, as they'll be the subject of our next 'Know Your Enemy' piece. That's tentatively scheduled for Thursday as the Diamondbacks have the day off then.