SAN FRANCISCO — Mere mention of the milestone causes Randy Johnson to recoil.
“I’m not going to talk about this stuff. OK, I got to go,” he said the other day, quickly leaving his locker and heading to the field. “I get distracted. I just try not to talk at all.”
So that’s how it’s going to be as the Big Unit prepares for his first try at 300 wins tonight at Washington.
At 45, the San Francisco lefty owns a World Series ring and co-MVP honours, five Cy Young awards and is a 10-time all-star selection. He’s thrown two no-hitters, including a perfect game, and ranks second on the career strikeout list.
Some of his best seasons have come in his later years — he’s won more games in his 40s than he did in his 20s.
The tallest player in the majors when he debuted with the long-gone Expos more than two decades ago, Johnson grew into more than oddity. He harnessed his six-foot-10 frame, refined his blazing fastball and wicked slider and came to symbolize what power pitching is all about.
“If he has control of his stuff, he’s going to win a lot of ball games,” Montreal manager Buck Rodgers predicted after Johnson’s second appearance in the big leagues.
Still capable of dominating with the Giants, he’s on the verge of a plateau that many in baseball believe will never again be reached.
Next up on the win list behind Johnson is 46-year-old Jamie Moyer (250), followed by 36-year-old Andy Pettitte (220). At 32, Roy Halladay isn’t even halfway there (139).
“With the way pitching is being used nowadays, I think it probably lessens the chance of it,” said Nolan Ryan, among the 23 aces to achieve the mark.
“Whether they start using starters differently because pitching is at such a premium, I don’t know.”