Five years ago, Upper Deck produced a baseball card with a big picture of Randy Johnson, then the Seattle Mariner ace, and a small picture of Jarrod Washburn, then a double-A pitcher. The title on the card: "Mirror Images."
Washburn still has the card, and he still has no idea why it was made. "That's why I think they must have screwed up," said Washburn, now an Angel pitcher. "There's no comparison between me and him stuff-wise."
Not to mention the fact the 6-foot-1 Washburn would need several telephone books to look the 6-10 Johnson in the eye. Still, the card may have been prophetic in a way.
Johnson still has a blazing fastball and one of the game's nastiest sliders, and Washburn has emerged as a rising star, not in Johnson's class but good enough for Mariner designated hitter Edgar Martinez to call him "one of the best left-handers in the American League."
And tonight, Johnson and Washburn will share more than a baseball card--they will share the Edison Field mound when they square off against each other for the first time.
"He's been the premier left-handed pitcher in the game for quite a few years," Washburn said. "To be considered anywhere near his caliber, I've got to pitch against him and give our team a chance to win."
Good luck. Johnson has a 15-6 lifetime record against the Angels, including a 12-2 mark in his last 15 games against them. But Washburn is on a roll of his own, going 7-1 with a 2.78 earned-run average in his last 13 starts, lowering his ERA from 7.56 on April 27 to 3.52. He has not lost since May 8.
During his stint on the disabled list, right fielder Tim Salmon has come to realize that maybe hard work isn't always the answer to a slump. Salmon took so much extra batting practice in late June he strained his left shoulder and the left side of his neck.
"I had never taken that many swings, but maybe you don't need that much, because if you fatigue yourself in workouts, you're not going into the games fresh," said Salmon, who is batting .206 with nine homers and 26 runs batted in and will be activated next week. "Sometimes I'm my own worst enemy."
The Angels Friday acquired double-A shortstop Desmond Figgins from Colorado in exchange for triple-A outfielder Kimera Bartee. Figgins, who was batting .220 with 25 RBIs and 27 stolen bases for Carolina of the Southern League, will be assigned to Class-A Rancho Cucamonga or double-A Arkansas.
ANGELS' JARROD WASHBURN
(7-4, 3.52 ERA)
DIAMONDBACKS' RANDY JOHNSON
(11-5, 2.71 ERA)
Edison Field, 7
TV--Fox Sports Net. Radio--KLAC (570), XPRS (1090).
Update--Though Scott Spiezio doesn't normally start against left-handers, Angel Manager Mike Scioscia may use him tonight because the switch-hitter has three hits in five career at-bats against Johnson, who leads the major leagues with 202 strikeouts and has limited opponents to a .206 average.