Randy Johnson was back on a mound on Monday night, throwing out the first pitch in the Seattle Mariners’ home opener against the Oakland A’s.
The future Hall of Famer, who rose to prominence in Seattle (winning the 1995 Cy Young) before moving on to win four more Cy Youngs and a World Series title with the Arizona Diamondbacks, dealt a strike to former battery mate Dan Wilson, then was joined by current Mariner Ken Griffey Jr., Wilson, and former Seattle teammates Edgar Martinez and Jay Buhner for a photo op.
But for all the excitement of the pre-game ceremony, Johnson could do nothing to stop the Mariners’ disappointing start, as they managed just two hits against Justin Duchscherer and two relievers in a 4-0 defeat.
With Cliff Lee and Erik Bedard injured, plus Ian Snell off on personal leave, the Mariners would be wise to convince the Big Unit to delay his march toward Cooperstown by one year and get back into the game.
While they’re at it, Martinez and Buhner could probably help, too.
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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉