Randy Johnson walked slowly off the mound, doing his best to disguise a slight limp, and touched his cap to acknowledge the fans behind the Diamondbacks’ dugout as he exited Thursday.
Johnson lasted only three innings in a 9-5 loss to Los Angeles at Chase Field in his first start since being diagnosed with a herniated disk in his lower back 10 days ago, and he admitted his right leg was still a nuisance.
“It’s all part of it. It’s the leg that I had the nerve problem in my calf,” said Johnson, whose sciatic nerve is affected by the bulging disc.
Johnson was forced onto the disabled list a week ago after feeling a pain he likened to shin splints that caused him to discontinue a normal side session and miss a scheduled start June 16 in Baltimore.
In his first start in 18 days, Johnson contended his back “is fine,” but the Dodgers did notice something different in the pitcher many consider the best left-hander in major league history.
“Just looking at his body language out there, it looked like he was hurting. Now I don’t know. I don’t know anything,” Los Angeles second baseman Jeff Kent said.
“He just didn’t look normal. Is it time? Is it injury? We all get older. He’s not as young as he used to be. There is a point in your career when you try to manipulate things.”
Johnson, 4-3, gave up six hits and four runs, three earned, in his three innings, throwing 70 pitches while hitting 94 mph on the stadium radar gun but admittedly having trouble with the location of his fastball.
“He wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen him, probably to be expected,” Arizona manager Bob Melvin said.
“The velocity went down in the third inning. We had a pretty good idea we weren’t going to get 100 pitches out of him.”
Russell Martin hit a 434-foot, two-run homer to center field three batters into the game, starting the Dodgers to their third victory in four games of this series. They scored three in the third and three in the fourth before the D-Backs scored.
“I missed my spots quite a bit. I meant to elevate a pitch about his (Martin’s) letters, and it was right down the middle of the plate,” said Johnson, who will not travel to San Francisco but is scheduled to start at St. Louis on Tuesday.
“I’ll chalk this one up to just coming off the DL and not pitching in 18 days. It’s not an excuse. I just didn’t execute my pitches and got hurt.”
Johnson last started June 10, when he beat Boston’s Daisuke Matsuzaka, and started three days after a 41-pitch tuneup in a simulated game Monday.
“The rhythm that I was in prior to going on the DL … you’re on a roll, and then the unforeseen comes in. I just have to overcome it. I look forward to my next start,” Johnson said.
“I have some work ahead of me, and I realize that. I’m not going to get all worked up about it. I pitched poorly.”
Nine of the 18 batters Johnson faced reached base, and one of his two walks came when he was ruled to have licked his fingers while standing on the mound on a 3-2 count to Kent. That is against the rules.
Kent later scored on a single by Matt Kemp, who reached third when center fielder Chris Young could not handle the hop. Young had two errors on similar plays, and the D-Backs had a season-high four errors.
“He didn’t have the command he wanted to have, but it wasn’t that bad,” said catcher Chris Snyder, who singled, walked and scored.
“There’s a big difference in throwing a simulated game to our guys and then going out there and facing live hitters. He’ll be back.”