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Aging finds Johnson reaching new heights

Associated Press
Published May 20, 2004

ATLANTA - Randy Johnson is aging to perfection.

Since turning 40 in September, he has pitched a one-hitter, a two-hitter and, now, the ultimate masterpiece: a perfect game.

Johnson became the 17th pitcher overall and the oldest one to accomplish the feat when he led the Diamondbacks to a 2-0 victory over the Braves on Tuesday night.

Twenty-seven up. Twenty-seven down.

And the Big Unit made it look downright easy.

"It wouldn't shock me if he threw two or three no-hitters in one year," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He has the stuff to do it."

Johnson returned to Turner Field on Wednesday with a hefty charge on his hotel bill - he treated everyone on the team to drinks after the game - and plenty of phone messages to return.

He was certainly in demand. During batting practice, Johnson taped a segment for The Late Show with David Letterman. The subject: Top 10 Cool Things About Pitching A Perfect Game. No. 6 on the list: Can walk up to guys who've thrown no-hitters and whisper, "Loser."

On a more serious note, Johnson hopes to be a role model for Arizona's younger pitchers.

"The more you learn now, it's going to make the game a little bit easier for you at a later age," he said. "Your workout ethic now will instill discipline in you and you'll have a routine. If you learn those things now, you'll only get better as you get older and more experienced."

Johnson certainly hasn't been hurt by time. The left-hander has maintained his overpowering repertoire of pitches into his 40s while honing the finer points of his craft.

"As a power pitcher, you don't want to think you're losing your stuff," Johnson said. "You want to think that you're getting better."

He'll get no argument from the Braves, who struck out 13 times and came close to reaching base just a handful of times.

Steve Finley had a good view of Johnson's pitches while playing centerfield. He was amazed at the movement.

"Almost nothing went over the middle of the plate," Finley said. "He was hitting the corners all night, but the problem for the hitters was that most of those pitches came in there at 97, 98 and 99 mph."

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