LOS ANGELES - Randy Johnson began integrating a split-finger pitch into his repertoire in 2002, so his decision to throw 30 of them Sunday seems to be a natural step, manager Bob Melvin said.
“I think it is kind of a progression. He’s just trying to get better and have some new tricks in his bag,” Melvin said.
“When 96 (mph) isn’t there one day, he has some other weapons to go to.”
Johnson touched 95 mph Sunday, lasting six innings and leaving in a 3-3 game against San Francisco that the D-Backs won, 5-4.
The D-Backs talked to Johnson about mixing in more off-speed pitches Sunday, his second start since returning from the disabled list.
While Johnson will never be confused with soft-tosser Jamie Moyer, he got a ground-ball double play on a split-finger in the first inning, and also got a harmless fly ball from Omar Vizquel and a strikeout of Todd Linden.
A couple of the hits in the Giants’ one-run fourth came on split-fingers, Johnson also said.
“He had a good feel for what was working for him,” Melvin said.
“He’s faced these guys enough to have a good feel for what they are looking for. He adjusted his stuff to what pitch was working for him and with what the reaction of the hitters was.”
Johnson touched 96 mph in his first start, according to the D-Backs’ gun, and they believe he will not hit maximum velocity for another couple of starts.
Brandon Lyon pitched at 90-91 mph during spring training but was consistently at 94 mph in saving Sunday’s victory.
Tony Pena reached 98 mph Sunday, a gain of five mph since spring training.
Micah Owings threw 45 pitches in his bullpen session Monday and appears healthy enough to be activated Thursday, when he is eligible to return from the disabled list after suffering a hamstring injury April 17.
Edgar Gonzalez is listed as the probable starter for Thursday’s game against the New York Mets, although that could change.
“We still have to iron out exactly what direction we are going in,” Melvin said.
The schedule could affect the decision on which to start. The D-Backs need a No. 5 starter Thursday and March 8 but then do not need one until March 19 because of off days May 10 and May 14.
Conor Jackson (right index finger) missed Monday’s game and is expected to take batting practice today with the possibility of playing Wednesday, Melvin said. …
Juan Cruz (shoulder) threw 25 pitches in a bullpen session, his first off a mound since going on the disabled list April 21. He will throw one more bullpen session before a possible rehab assignment, Melvin said. …
Justin Upton hit his fifth home run in as many games Sunday for Class A Visalia, improving his batting average to .366.