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Diamondbacks award Johnson with two-year, $33 million deal



Published: Tue, March 25, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The pitcher led the league in ERA, wins and strikeouts last season.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) -- Baseball players approaching 40 aren't supposed to get two-year, $33 million contracts. Of course, Randy Johnson is an exception.

In four seasons with Arizona, Johnson has won four NL Cy Young Awards, struck out 1,417, compiled an 81-27 record and led the Diamondbacks to three NL West crowns and a World Series title.

"We're talking about one of the greatest pitchers of all time," owner Jerry Colangelo said. "It's been a real pleasure for our fans and it's a joy to say they're going to be able to see him continue on."

Johnson and the Diamondbacks agreed to terms Monday for the two-year extension that will keep the big left-hander in an Arizona uniform past his 42nd birthday.

His $16.5 million salary will be the highest per-season pay ever for a pitcher.

"It goes without being said I'm being paid a lot of money," Johnson said at a news conference at a Scottsdale restaurant. "They want some return on their investment, and I try to give that to them tenfold."

Prepared

Fittingly, Johnson was late for the news conference while he finished his workout. His physical preparation is second to no one in baseball. He already has added the split-finger fastball to his trademark repertoire of smoking fastball and nasty slider. Now he's working on adding a forkball.

He also spent time in the off-season trying to work on his delivery to release the ball even later than he already does, a frightening prospect for batters who felt the 6-foot-10 Johnson was intimidating enough.

Adding pitches is part of his plan to keep pitching at a high level into his early 40s, even as some of his power inevitably fades.

"It is easy to go out there occasionally and have a 98 mph fastball and throw it by hitters," Johnson said. "But it's more of a challenge, and I have more respect for pitchers who don't have that kind of ability, who actually have to go out there and pitch. I'm learning to do that, and I'm having fun doing it."

With Arizona, the Big Unit has a 2.48 ERA with 1,417 strikeouts and 31 complete games, 11 of them shutouts.

Dominance

Last year, Johnson became the first major leaguer since Boston's Pedro Martinez in 1999 and the first NL player since the New York Mets' Dwight Gooden in 1985 to win a pitching triple crown. Johnson was 24-5 with a 2.37 ERA and 334 strikeouts, leading the major leagues in strikeouts for the ninth time.

In 2001, he won Games 2, 6 and 7 of the World Series, becoming the first pitcher with three Series victories since Detroit's Mickey Lolich in 1968 and the first ever with five victories in a single postseason. After throwing 101 pitches in Game 6, he came out of the bullpen the following night and pitched 11/3 shutout innings, enabling Arizona to rally in the ninth inning for a 3-2 win.

"He worked extremely hard this winter constantly trying to find ways to improve on what a lot of people think is perfection already," manager Bob Brenly said. "That's what drives Randy. He wants to be the best, he is the best and he wants to stay the best."

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.




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