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Mariners blog

Daily coverage of the Mariners during the season and all year long.

May 22, 2009 at 6:07 PM

Ran-dy, Ran-dy, Ran-dy

There was a really obvious — and really big — object of pregame discussion before this one, former Mariner pitcher Randy Johnson, who is making what could be the last start of his career in Seattle.
The Big Unit still ranks among the leaders in many Mariners pitching categories, such as first in strikeouts (2,162) and second in wins (130).
He’s made three starts at Safeco since being traded midway through the 1998 season, including somewhat fittingly pitching what was the first shutout in the history of the field in 1999 in his initial return to Seattle. That was a 6-0 win for the Diamondbacks on July 20, 1999.
With Johnson on the mound and Ken Griffey Jr. back in the Mariners dugout, it feels a little like old times here.
Johnson appears to be relishing in the return. He didn’t talk to media before the game — starting pitchers never do. But he did speak for a good 20 minutes or so with Mariners broadcaster Dave Niehaus. Niehaus said he simply poked his head in the door where Johnson was watching film to say “Hi” and Johnson pulled him in for a long conversation. Niehaus said that’s something that never would have happened during his Seattle days.
Johnson’s wife, who is from Bellevue, and kids are here and members of bands he got to know while playing here such as Pearl Jam and Soundgarden will also be in attendance.
Griffey held court for 10 minutes or so talking about Johnson. He shrugged and said he never thought about what might have been had Seattle been able to keep all of that late ’90s team together.
He also said he never imagined that Johnson might be a 300-game winner, simply because that seemed so far off at the time.
“I don’t think you think about numbers at that time,” he said. “We were just kids and just wanted to play baseball.”
Mariners manager Don Wakamatsu, meanwhile, revealed that he played on a high school all-star team with Johnson in northern California and caught him a few times.
“I just remember him throwing it hard and wild,” he said, adding he did “more retrieving
than catching.”
However, he said it’s been “quite a journey” to watch Johnson through the years and used the word “special” about five times to describe what it’s like now to manage against him.

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