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Diamondbacks-Padres Preview

Diamondbacks-Padres Preview
The Arizona Diamondbacks believe Randy Johnson is progressing slowly but surely.

Still in search of his first victory, the five-time Cy Young Award winner makes his third start on Friday night when the Diamondbacks open a three-game road series with the punchless San Diego Padres.

Johnson (0-1, 3.38) did not make his season debut until April 14 due to ongoing back problems. He yielded three unearned runs over five innings in that outing, a 5-4 loss at San Francisco.

The "Big Unit" lost his home debut against the Padres (9-14) on Sunday, giving up six runs over 5 2-3 innings in a 9-4 loss. Still, Johnson and the Diamondbacks (16-6) were encouraged by that 104-pitch effort.

"Things are getting better," Johnson said. "Everything is under the microscope now. This isn't spring training any more. You go out there in a tight ballgame and make some mistakes, it can cost you."

The back problems have even given Johnson problems traveling, a reason he didn't join the team in Los Angeles for a two-game series with the Dodgers that ended Thursday. He had an MRI on Wednesday to monitor his condition.

"I think it's for peace of mind as much as anything else," Arizona manager Bob Melvin told the team's official Web site.

On Sunday, San Diego manager Bud Black used a lineup with just one left-handed hitter among its position players to counter Johnson.

Black's decision to start Justin Huber in left field over lefty Paul McAnulty certainly worked. Huber connected for his first career homer - a three-run shot off Johnson that opened up a 5-1 lead for the Padres.

This will be Johnson's first start at Petco Park since 2004, when he went 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in two starts in the first season of the stadium. Johnson is 14-5 in his career against the Padres, but just 1-3 with a 4.39 ERA in his last four starts against them.

Randy Wolf (2-0, 2.49) will try to defeat Johnson again after he gave up four runs over 6 1-3 innings on Sunday. The left-hander, who has pitched at least six innings in all four of his starts this season, improved to 6-2 with a 4.25 ERA in 11 career starts against the Diamondbacks.

Arizona first baseman Conor Jackson had three hits off Wolf on Sunday. Jackson went 8-for-14 with four RBIs in the three-game series as the Diamondbacks won two of three.

"On Friday, I'm going to throw Conor underhand, because everything else he hits," Wolf said.

The Padres are struggling to score at home as they try to end a four-game skid at Petco Park. They have scored a total of five runs in their last 53 innings at home after a 1-0 loss to San Francisco on Thursday.

"We're struggling to get that key hit," Black said. "That's going to come. It's going to come."

The Diamondbacks won for the seventh time in nine games Thursday, beating the Dodgers 6-4. Jeff Salazar hit a two-run homer and Jackson also drove in two runs for Arizona.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: April 25, 2008

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