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D-Backs Sign Johnson to $33 Million Pact

March 24, 2003

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) _ Randy Johnson and the Arizona Diamonbacks enjoyed their first four years together so much that they don’t want to end the relationship any time soon.

Johnson, who won the NL Cy Young every year he’s been in Arizona, agreed Monday to a $33 million, two-year contract extension with the Diamondbacks.

The deal will keep Johnson in an Arizona uniform through his 42nd birthday, and is the largest average annual salary of any pitcher in baseball history. Roger Clemens averaged $15.45 million with the New York Yankees in 2001 and 2002.

``I don’t know if this year and the two-year extension will take me to the end of my career,″ Johnson said Monday, ``but I know inside of me I still have the fire and desire to continue to go out and do the things that I’ve done.″

Johnson and the Diamondbacks won three NL West championships and one World Series title in the first four seasons of his current contract.

``They want some return on what they’re giving me and I try to give them it back tenfold,″ he said. ``I suppose that if you continue to say that I’m old, eventually you’re going to be right. But I’m looking at it as just a number.″

Johnson is 81-27 since joining the Diamondbacks, raising his career record to 224-106. With Arizona, the Big Unit has a 2.48 ERA with 1,417 strikeouts and 31 complete games, 11 of them shutouts.

``We’re talking about one of the greatest pitchers of all-time,″ owner Jerry Colangelo said. ``It’s been a real pleasure for our fans and it’s a joy to say they’re going to be able to see him continue on.″

Last year, Johnson became the first major leaguer since Boston’s Pedro Martinez in 1999 and the first NL player since the New York Mets’ Dwight Gooden in 1985 to win a pitching triple crown. Johnson was 24-5 with a 2.37 ERA and 334 strikeouts, leading the major leagues in strikeouts for the ninth time.

In 2001, he won Games 2, 6 and 7 of the World Series, becoming the first pitcher with three Series victories since Detroit’s Mickey Lolich in 1968 and the first ever with five victories in a single postseason. After throwing 101 pitches in Game 6, he came out of the bullpen the following night and pitched 1 1-3 shutout innings, enabling Arizona to rally in the ninth inning for a 3-2 win.

``He worked extremely hard this winter constantly trying to find ways to improve on what a lot of people think is perfection already,″ manager Bob Brenly said. ``That’s what drives Randy. He wants to be the best, he is the best and he wants to stay the best. He sets a great example for the rest of the pitching staff.″

Johnson agreed to a four-year contract with Arizona before the 1999 season, a deal that guaranteed him $52.4 million over four years and contained a $12 million option for 2003 with a $3 million buyout.

He already has earned $2.75 million in bonuses, raising his total under the current deal to a minimum $64.15 million over five years.

Johnson’s extension will pay him $16 million in each of the 2004 and 2005 seasons, and contains a $1 million personal-services contract at the end of the deal.

Arizona is deferring $6 million in each year of the extension. Johnson already had agreed to defer $8 million a year in salary for 2001, 2002 and 2003, money that will be paid with 6 percent compounded interest. He also announced that he will donate $1 million to charity. The recipient will be named later, Johnson said.

He remembered that critics four years ago felt Arizona may have invested too much money in a 35-year-old pitcher two years removed from back surgery. He noted that there were those who wondered if, by signing with an expansion team that had just lost 100 games, he had given up on winning.

``I think things have worked out pretty well,″ Johnson said.

The news conference was held at a Scottsdale restaurant, a few blocks from where the Diamondbacks met San Francisco in a spring training game later in the day.

Fittingly, Johnson was late because he was finishing his workout. His work ethic is second to none in baseball. He has added the split-finger fastball to his trademark repertoire of fastball and slider, and spent time in the offseason trying to lengthen his delivery.

``Eventually I will get old, and I won’t be able to do the things that I want to do,″ Johnson said, ``but that’s why I’ve been preparing over the years to become more of a pitcher than just going out there and being a power pitcher.″

He said that as he gets older, there probably won’t be as many strikeouts.

``People will say, ‘He’s not striking out people anymore,’ but the bottom line is are we still winning,″ Johnson said. ``Now I feel it’s a great accomplishment to go out there at 39 years old and not have my best stuff but still get the best hitters out in baseball.″

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