Even at 44, Big Unit still expects much from himself
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Randy Johnson has thrown a no-hitter and a perfect game, struck out 20 batters in nine innings one night and more than 4,000 in his career. He killed a bird with a pitch and punched a cameraman in New York. He received pitching lessons from Nolan Ryan, won consecutive games of a World Series and turned Larry Walker into a switch-hitter for one at-bat. He pitched for a team that no longer exists, a team with a Moose for a mascot and the most famous team in American sports. He's won five Cy Young awards, 284 games and, barring a congressional hearing or the revelation about a wife taking HGH, his mullet-coiffed mug will be in the Hall of Fame as one of the greatest pitchers of all time.But Monday afternoon, the Big Unit had a modest goal when he pitched in a competitive situation for the first time since last June. "I wasn't too worried about too many things today,'' Johnson said. "I just wanted to go out there and have fun and not fall on my face and not kill any hitters. ... Today was just getting my feet wet.'' He managed all that in his first spring game, facing nine Rockies batters in 1 1/3 innings, allowing four hits, three runs, one walk, one home run, striking out one batter and leaving the field with neither an apparent injury nor a homicide. And now comes the even bigger test as Johnson returns from surgery on his 44-year-old back. How will it feel Tuesday when he wakes up and gets out of bed? "Tomorrow will be a big day as well,'' he said. "I've had six months to heal. Last year was only 3½ months. I have no choice but to be patient. If I rush it and the injury happens again, I'll really be backed into a corner. "I have a long way to go. Even when I was healthy the first six years here, I'd complain about not getting enough innings in. I'd have 28 innings and not feel it was enough.''
If I would have been satisfied with having a so-so year, I may not have been able to do what I've done. I don't think I'll ever meet my expectations.
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