Notes: Johnson appears to be better

Notes: Johnson appears to be better

PHOENIX -- Randy Johnson once again felt good when he played catch on Wednesday and will take Thursday off before throwing a flat-ground bullpen session on Friday. After that, the team should have a better idea when he will take the mound again.

Johnson is eligible to come off the disabled list on Tuesday, and while D-backs manager Bob Melvin all but ruled that date out, it didn't sound like it would be long after that.

"Sooner rather than later with him," Melvin said. "He's itching to get out there. He doesn't want too much rest."

Melvin said when he first got the news that Johnson had suffered a reherniation, his first thought was personal rather than professional.

"It takes a mentally strong guy to deal with it and he's definitely that guy," Melvin said.

Decisions, decisions: Once Johnson returns, the club will still have to have a backup plan before each of his starts, because as the Big Unit said he is at the mercy of his sciatic nerve.

One option is to have a starter in Triple-A matched up to pitch the same day as Johnson, so that, if Johnson's back flares up a couple of days before his start, they could just call that pitcher up from Tucson.

The other option would be to turn to Edgar Gonzalez, who filled in ably for Johnson in Baltimore and has handled moving between the rotation and bullpen well. The only catch is if Gonzalez has to be used in long relief before that, he wouldn't be ready to go.

"Obviously, he's our first option, and if he's not used, he'd be the guy we'd look to," Melvin said of Gonzalez. "He's been able to, with quite a bit of time off, still be able to go out there and give us five innings. He's been great about that, so he would always be our first option."

The back and forth hasn't been easy for Gonzalez, but he has done well in both roles.

"The first two months, it was very hard," he said of the dual roles. "But now I feel different. I have to be ready for anything, because I want to be here in the big leagues. Anything I can do to help the team, whether it's starting or relieving, I want to be ready to do."

Head scratcher: One day later, Doug Davis was still trying to figure out what went wrong in his Tuesday start, when he allowed seven runs on nine hits in just four innings.

"Anytime I fell behind, they were swinging at the second pitch which was white on white," he said referring to a pitch down the middle. "And every time I threw a first-pitch strike, they were swinging at that. I just didn't understand what was going on with that."

In his last three starts, Davis is 0-2 and has allowed 16 earned runs in 13 innings, with 11 walks and 10 strikeouts.

In his three starts prior to that, Davis was on a roll, going 2-1 and allowing just four earned runs over 22 2/3 innings. Probably not coincidentally, he walked just six and fanned 15 over that span.

"It comes down to pitch execution," pitching coach Bryan Price said. "The last three outings he hasn't been real sharp in the strike zone, so what we're going to do is keep reinforcing what we've been doing, and that's staying aggressive in the strike zone so he can then expand it."

Fireworks: The D-backs will host the first fireworks show at Chase Field following Saturday's game with the Orioles. The 12-minute show will be presented by Gila River Casinos and will start approximately 10 minutes after the conclusion of the game.

Up next: The D-backs get their second look at the Orioles on Friday night when they open a three-game series with them. Last weekend, Arizona swept Baltimore in Camden Yards.

"At some point in time, you'd think they'd get back on a roll," Melvin said. "We just hope it's after they leave here."

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.