2006-06-16 / Sports

Yankees' Johnson Returns To His Bad Form

By Joe McDonaldSports Columnist

BRONX, NY - It looked like the corner may have turned for Randy Johnson. After being tattooed by the Mets during the Subway Series, the future Hall of Famer put two very good performances together on the road.

Then the 42 year-old returned home on last Friday against the Oakland A's and Johnson went back to his washed-up form.

The result was six runs [five earned] over four innings with five bases on balls during the Yankees' 6-5 rain-delayed loss.

"On a personal standpoint, I didn't have much," said Johnson, whose record now stands at 7-5 with a 5.62 ERA "I think this is the second time I walked five guys. The solo home runs don't bother me, but when they accumulate their runs, it's bothersome."

Jorge Posada, who caught the whole game, knows of his wildness. "When you are behind," he said, "hitters are going to look for pitches and they are in the middle of the plate."

The problem the lefthander seems to be having is not velocity - since his fastball is still clocked at 94 MPH - but location. Too many times he was behind in the count, which caused him to groove the ball and resulted in three home runs.

It could be because he was squeezed and Johnson barked at times towards home plate umpire Chad Fairchild. "It happened last year and I think a strike is a strike," the pitcher said. "I am out there and thinking some of the pitches are borderline." This past start could be an aberration, but the story has been pretty much the same. Unlike other top starters, Johnson needs to find himself different pitches, much like teammate Mike Mussina did this season.

"I hope so; I think so," manager Joe Torre said. "I hope the only issue is a bad outing. He had two good outings in a row. The first inning was pretty easy, but he didn't have any life to the ball today."

Yet at his advanced age, it could be too late for the lefthander, who has been inconsistent for much of the season.

Either way, the manager still has faith in him.

"There's still plenty in there," Torre said. "Just the fact he pitched for so long as such a great pitcher, you have to give him an opportunity."

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