Notes: Big Unit throws simulated game
D-backs encouraged after southpaw tosses two innings
PHOENIX -- Randy Johnson threw 41 pitches over two innings of a simulated game Monday, with the club set to make a decision on his return after seeing how he feels Tuesday.
Johnson threw to rehabbing outfielder Jeff DaVanon and reserve infielder Augie Ojeda, with DaVanon taking swings both left- and right-handed. General manager Josh Byrnes, assistant GM Peter Woodfork, manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Bryan Price looked on.
Johnson threw 19 pitches before taking a break to simulate a break between innings before finishing off with 22 more pitches, throwing from both the stretch and the windup. Ojeda hit a ball that bounced over the left-field wall into the bullpen, but was the only hit of note.
"I was surprised at how well he threw," Melvin said. "A lot of times, those games are tough to actually get your adrenaline going for. The velocity typically is not there. Sometimes, the command and everything was there, [he had a] sharp slider and threw really well. For a simulated game, that's about as 100 percent as you're going to get."
DaVanon said Johnson did a good job throwing to both sides of the plate.
"He just basically looked like where he left off," DaVanon said. "He was really strong, and what was really impressive about him was his location of the ball."
Rotation rounding into shape: If Johnson feels good Tuesday, his next scheduled start could be Thursday against the Dodgers.
Melvin said it should not affect Livan Hernandez to move his start back a day if Johnson feels good enough to pitch then. That would let the D-backs throw their original preferred order of Brandon Webb, Johnson, Hernandez and Doug Davis.
"We envisioned doing that early on right away, and if we plug [Johnson] in right here, that's the way we'd like to do that," Melvin said.
Although it's uncertain how the herniated disc in Johnson's back will respond to his first start, Melvin expects him to maintain his usual every-fifth-day schedule.
"I don't think it's something where we're going to be on red alert every time and look to potentially have to do something," Melvin said, "but obviously after a big-league start we'll have a better idea where we're going with that."
DaVanon progressing: DaVanon continued his recovery from right shoulder surgery by hitting off Johnson during his simulated game.
The outfielder called it a "benchmark" for him because he swung and missed once, but did not feel pain like he did before.
Melvin said DaVanon could start a rehab assignment as soon as when the D-backs leave on a road trip Friday. The club has not set a target date because it would likely be a significant rehab assignment.
"He's getting there," Melvin said. "Just getting him back out on the field and playing in games will be encouraging for us."
Resilient D-backs: Twice last week, the D-backs rallied from deficits of at least four runs to win a game the day after getting blown out in the series opener.
The previous weekend in Baltimore, the club came back from a three-run eighth-inning deficit that propelled the club to a sweep after having lost five of six the previous week to the Yankees and Red Sox.
"It has impressed me, and not only in the fashion that we might lose Game 1 and it might be ugly, and then we might be behind in the second game by a significant margin, and here we come," Melvin said. "Our focus has been all along in not trying to get too far ahead of ourselves, and we're going to continue to do that. If we start looking further out where we are in the schedule, then things can get a little bit much for a young group."
Arizona in the clutch: The D-backs have been making the most of their runs this season, leading the National League West despite owning a run differential 77 runs worse than second-place San Diego entering Monday. Clutch hitting and stellar relief in the later innings have helped the D-backs go 17-8 in one-run games, leading Arizona to a record 12 games over .500, although the club has scored only eight more runs than it has allowed.
"We're getting some pitching one day and the offense doesn't have to step up, or we're getting offense one day and helping out the pitching a little, so so far it's been pretty good as far as the timing goes," Melvin said.
Penny saved: Showing what this four-game series between Arizona and Los Angeles means to the Dodgers, Los Angeles moved back Brad Penny's start date to Monday to face the D-backs.
The move backfired in the short run with the Dodgers losing to Tampa Bay on Sunday behind Hong-Chih Kuo, but they do get the matchup they want with Penny facing an Arizona squad he had allowed one run against in 13 innings (0.69 ERA) this year.
"You can understand them doing what they did," Melvin said. "They want to get him on a team within the division. It's a big four-game series. We're all kind of in shouting distance in here, so I understand it. It didn't surprise me when they did it."
Market tickets: The D-backs announced that fans can now purchase game tickets at Phoenix Ranch Market, located at 1602 E. Roosevelt in Phoenix.
The D-backs Ticket Outlet is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. MST every day at the Customer Service Desk at Phoenix Ranch Market.
Fans can get a coupon to purchase one bleacher ticket to a Monday-Thursday game along with a "Family Value" D-backs cap and T-shirt for $20 from June 25-July 31 if the ticket is bought at Phoenix Ranch Market.
Up next: The D-backs continue their four-game showdown with the Dodgers on Tuesday at 6:40 p.m. MST at Chase Field, with Arizona's Edgar Gonzalez taking on Chad Billingsley.
Michael Schwartz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.