Randy Johnson addresses captive audience at D-backs camp
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — When Randy Johnson talks, pitchers listen.
Not just because he is the dominant presence in the room at 6-foot-11, or because he is a Hall of Famer, although that does lend a certain cachet.
They listen because he wasn’t always that Randy Johnson.
It took Johnson years to become the pitcher who ended up with 303 victories, and he went through growing pains and the frustrations along the way, something he was glad to share when he spoke to the Diamondbacks pitchers early Monday.
His points were clear.
Prepare and make every start as if it is your last.
"He can relate because he has been that guy who really had to develop his style of pitching," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "Everybody remembers what he did at the end, but when he first came through the minor leagues and when he first went into the big leagues, it was a tough go for him mechanically."
His points dovetail nicely with the D-backs’ philosophy.
"He talked about his career … (how) he just kept trying to do better and better," Hale said. "That sometimes pitchers are happy with going five or six innings and giving up three or four runs. In his opinion, that is not good enough, and it’s not good enough for any of us. We want guys who want to pitch that next inning, who want to throw 10 more pitches. That is one thing he said — try to get to that point.
"Make you next start your best start."
Or your next relief appearance. Johnson is a left-hander, and Matt Stites is a righty. Johnson started, Stites pitches out of the bullpen. The message applies equally.
"For me, it’s more like every pitch and every appearance," Stites said. "Focus on the now. Focus on, ‘This may be the last pitch you throw, make it your best.’ You have a guy like that telling you something, you listen. He went through it. He’s one of the greats. That’s the guy you want to listen to, take advice from, pick his brain and follow what he does."
Johnson observed the D-backs’ relievers during their second bullpen session Monday, and Hale sees him as an invaluable presence.
"He was great with the young guys," Hale said. "I think he is going to have a big impact on our minor league group."