the big unit

Russ Spence

Commercial Pressure Wash Expert and PWI Admin
The Arizona Diamondbacks parted with popular veterans Luis Gonzalez and Craig Counsell to make room for prospects.

But 43-year-old Randy Johnson thinks he'll fit right in with the youthful Diamondbacks. And that's why he agreed to waive his no-trade clause and clear the way for the club to reacquire him from the New York Yankees.

"I'm excited about being back here to finish my career, absolutely," Johnson said Tuesday at a Chase Field news conference. "Seems like youth has been a big thing here. Well, maybe this will be a fountain of youth coming back here and playing with a lot of young players."

Shortstop Stephen Drew was five years old and outfielder Carlos Quentin had just turned six when Johnson made his major-league debut with Montreal on Sept. 15, 1988.

The Diamondbacks are, in many ways, the polar opposite of the veteran, star-laden Yankees, and this may be a better fit for the Big Unit. But on the day he returned to the Diamondbacks, Johnson said he had no regrets about leaving in the first place.

The left-hander's two seasons with the New York Yankees were trying. But Johnson said they were worth it, even though he never won a World Series ring there, as he did with the Diamondbacks in 2001.

"The run that I had, as short-lived as it was, as well-documented as it was in New York, I wouldn't change a thing," Johnson said. "I think those are life experiences that make a man. I made some mistakes there; I fessed up to the mistakes that I made. On the field, I gave everything I had."

Arizona is betting that Johnson has a lot more left to give. The Diamondbacks gave him a $26 million, two-year contract and traded right-handed reliever Luis Vizcaino and three minor leaguers to the Yankees: right-handers Ross Ohlendorf and Steven Jackson, and shortstop Alberto Gonzalez.

"A lot of people say my career is over," Johnson said. "I had a 5.00 ERA. Well, I was out there pitching with a bad back for most of the year."

New York also agreed to pay $2 million of Johnson's salary this year. Because of the cash involved, the deal had to be approved by commissioner Bud Selig.

"We're trying to change how we do business," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said. "I'm trying to speed up the process of getting younger, getting more flexible and getting more athletic."

Johnson, who had back surgery in October, passed his physical on Monday. He said he plans to begin playing catch next week but wasn't sure when he might start throwing off a mound.

"Am I going to be ready for opening day?" Johnson said. "I'd like to think so, but I'm not going to say I am."

The Diamondbacks hope Johnson will help them end a three-year streak of losing seasons, the longest in their nine-year history.

"We are ecstatic to bring Randy Johnson back home to Arizona," general manager Josh Byrnes said.

Johnson's best seasons came in Arizona, where he went 103-49 in six seasons and won four NL Cy Young Awards before going to the Yankees in a deal he sought two years ago. He needs 20 victories for 300.

The road back was paved when Cashman called Johnson last month to express condolences on the death of his brother.

"Out of a genuine condolence call, and genuine concern, Brian asked Randy if he could reach out to a couple of clubs closer to home, and Randy said he could do that, and that led us to where we are today," said Barry Meister, one of Johnson's agents.

Cashman admitted the deal was a gamble.

"By making a move here with Randy Johnson, I do put the rotation at risk," he said. "We'll take a half-step back hopefully to take two steps forward with the greater inventory that we have to turn to and the competition that that inventory can have amongst each other.

"What we're talking about here are prospects," Cashman added. "I recognize that means they're suspects at the same time."

Johnson posed with his old No. 51 in the Diamondbacks' new red-trimmed home uniforms, and he seemed more relaxed than he was for much of his time in New York, where his every move drew scrutiny.

"This was a little bit more to deal with than maybe some of the other places," Cashman said. "Not just the playing aspect of it — the coverage clearly and the attention, everything is more magnified in this town, and obviously the expectation levels are sometimes higher than anybody can ever reach."

Johnson won 34 games for the Yankees but none in the postseason. Although Johnson didn't become a fan favorite in New York, he said he "never got the feeling" that Yankees fans wanted him gone.

"As a consumer myself, when I buy a steak or go to the movies, if it's not a good steak I send it back and if it's not a good movie I usually leave," Johnson said. "If I didn't pitch well there, they'd boo me. I've been booed here in a Diamondback uniform. It's completely understandable. That didn't bother me."


Russ Spence

Commercial Pressure Wash Expert and PWI Admin
gotta respect the yankees ........ ???

hey charlie ,help us out with a signature