Monday, May 23, 2005

RJ Starts Rolling Out the Excuses

Another good one from the Daily News: (And while we're talking about RJ, any of you Yankee fans see Javy Vazquez pitch a shutout yesterday? Or Brad Halsey outpitch Roger Clemens the other night? Just asking.)

Randy Johnson is a creature of habit. He freely admits that his between-starts routine is one of the most important parts of his success, and believes that the fluctuating number of days between outings - five days of rest instead of the usual four - has contributed to his inconsistency this year.
"Is it a big deal? Absolutely, to me," Johnson said yesterday.
The problem is, there isn't much Joe Torre and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre can do about it. Stottlemyre said he would try to accommodate the Big Unit in the future, but short of skipping rookie Chien-Ming Wang - which is what the Yanks did this last time through the rotation - he has few options with a veteran pitching staff that is difficult to manipulate.
Johnson has pitched with five days' rest three times this season and will get an extra day his next outing, too, since the Bombers had an off day last Thursday and another one today. But given a choice of slotting Johnson in for the final game of the Tigers series or the opener against Boston on Friday night, Stottlemyre said there was little consideration to keeping the Unit on the usual routine; the Yanks want him starting against the rival Red Sox.
"What would you do?" Stottlemyre said.
Stottlemyre said he understands Johnson's sentiments, but hopes the Unit will not let the extra day become a mental block. Although Johnson said the routine is important to him, he pitched with six days between starts eight times last season and allowed just 10 earned runs and 33 hits over 59-1/3 innings; one of those outings was his May 18 perfect game against the Braves (he pitched with a seven-day gap once, allowing one earned run and eight hits over seven innings).
"If it was later in the year and I needed some rest, then OK, but it's not like I've gotten that much work and I'm tired or something," Johnson said. "I don't need that now."
Torre knows he could try to convince Johnson that an extra day is actually a good thing. Johnson is 41 years old, worked through a calf strain in spring training and a tweaked groin earlier this season (that cost him one start), in addition to having a surgically repaired knee and back. Considering that history, one might think the Yanks would prefer to give their lefty ace more rest whenever possible.
But Torre doesn't think that sort of speech will work on Johnson.
"He's not 41 in his mind," Torre said. "That's on his back, not in his mind. What he expects of himself, age is not a consideration. He still feels he's a dominant pitcher, and so do we."

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