Randy Johnson ended his second spring start with a flourish, finishing with 15 straight strikes Saturday against the Los Angeles Angels in Tempe.
Johnson gave up only one hit in three innings, hit 93 mph with his fastball and was as effective and efficient as the Diamondbacks could expect.
At the same time, time is working against Johnson if he is to open the regular season with the team, and he seemed to say as much Saturday.
“There is still a long way to go,” Johnson said, “but it is encouraging to be able to at least out there and throw three quality innings.
“I still have hopefully four or five more spring training games to kind of get sharper.”
Since the D-Backs are to open the regular season March 31 in Cincinnati, the schedule limits Johnson to two more spring starts, with his next one likely to come Friday against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Tucson.
Yusmeiro Petit, who followed Johnson in the D-Backs’ 6-5, 10-inning loss to the Angels on Saturday, and Edgar Gonzalez would be candidates to make a regular-season start or two if Johnson is not there at the onset.
Johnson gave up a bases-empty home run to Gary Matthews Jr., the second batter he faced, but was otherwise untouched by an Angels’ lineup that included Chone Figgins, Matthews, Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter Garret Anderson and Howie Kendrick.
He struck out two and did not walk a batter while throwing 30 strikes in 43 pitches, seven short of his limit.
“His command, when he is on and doing his thing, is phenomenal for a power pitcher,” manager Bob Melvin said.
“When he gets ahead and the endurance is there, which it looked like was a little bit better today, he’s going to throw it where he wants to.”
Johnson, who threw 33 pitches in his spring debut against Colorado on March 10, said he would have liked to reach 50 on Saturday in order that the progression to a potential 65 in his next outing might go more smoothly.
He threw about 18 sliders and struck out Angels catcher Jeff Mathis on a down-and-in slider to open the third inning, in which all 12 of his pitches were strikes.
“For not pitching for a long time, the one thing that I am pleased with is my control,” said Johnson, whose last major league start was June 28.
He threw 33 pitches in his first spring start March 10 against Colorado, when he gave up four hits and three runs in 1 1/3 innings.
“Obviously it was night and day compared to last time,” he said. “You just have to start seeing improvement in certain areas, and the next time out I will look for improvement on stamina and location and just making that jump to pitching four innings.’’
Chris Burke made another start at first base Saturday, engendering more confidence as the potential first backup option to Conor Jackson.
“It’s like having another shortstop out on the field, as far as coverage goes,” Melvin said.
Chris Young received cheers from his teammates for a batting practice home run that landed in a five-gallon plastic trash can far up the berm beyond the left-field fence at Tempe Diablo Stadium.