07/01/2003 9:08 PM ET
Notes: Johnson 'tentative'
Big Unit's rehab start may get pushed back
DENVER -- Randy Johnson has looked a bit "tentative" during fielding drills, which may cause his first rehab start -- originally scheduled for Thursday with Triple-A Tucson -- to be pushed back.
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
Johnson, who threw off the mound again Monday in Phoenix, will be examined by team physician Dr. Michael Lee on Wednesday. The left-hander underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right knee May 1.
"His arm felt great," D-Backs head athletic trainer Paul Lessard said. "The knee felt pretty good too. I want to push him this week on fielding his position and make sure he's confident doing it."
The report that Lessard got from rehab specialist Brett Fischer was that Johnson was a bit "tentative," which is to be expected.
"It's just common sense for me because basically he's only been doing it for a day or two," Lessard said, referring to the fielding drills. "If he's not comfortable fielding his position then I don't want him out there and I know (general manager Joe Garagiola Jr.) and (manager Bob Brenly) don't want him to go out there."
Johnson, though, could still end up making the start, which would keep him on pace for returning to the Diamondbacks right after the All-Star break.
"It's all going to come down to No. 51," Lessard said referring to Johnson. "If he feels like he's comfortable and confident doing those things, then OK."
Counsell to play: Infielder Craig Counsell left the club Tuesday night bound for Phoenix where he will pack up his stuff and head to Tucson to begin a rehabilitation assignment Wednesday night.
Counsell, who tore ligaments in his thumb that required surgery in May, passed his final test Tuesday afternoon when he took early batting practice with Brenly pitching.
"He's been saying for a couple of days, 'What do I have to do to prove I'm ready?'" Brenly said. "I guess hitting off the manager is the best way to prove it. He looked good. I didn't think there was anything more we needed to say. I think he's ready to play."
Brenly threw some balls in on Counsell's hands and also threw some away that he hit with the end of the bat. Neither caused him to feel any pain in his thumb.
"It's been eight weeks so I felt like I've been patient and I'm looking forward to getting back on the field," Counsell said as he packed his bag in the clubhouse.
After being out of action for nearly two months, Counsell's biggest challenge will be regaining his timing at the plate.
"The thumb is going to be tested at times, but I think that's going to be fine," Counsell said. "That's what we kind of used this week for. You have to feel like it's healthy in your head before you can kind of go full bore on it. The last few days have helped me realize there's nothing wrong with it, it's fine and you're not going to hurt it."
Counsell will likely stay through the weekend, but the D-Backs are playing things by ear.
"We'll just take it day-to-day and see how it goes," Brenly said.
Closer switch: Monday, Brenly said that the team had a "two-headed" closer with Jose Valverde and Matt Mantei, indicating that he would decide on a daily basis who would close.
Monday, it was Valverde, who got the call in the game's final inning, while Mantei needed just 11 pitches to retire two outs earlier in the game.
Brenly said that their roles would be reversed for Tuesday's game.
"Flip them," Brenly said. "Matty came in and got two huge outs for us there in the eighth inning and did it with a very reasonable number of pitches. Jose came in and got the save, but threw (26) pitches to get the outs. Today the roles are reversed."
That figures to be the way things go, at least for the time being. Mantei was not pleased with the decision Monday, calling the move a "joke." Tuesday, he and Brenly talked for close to five minutes behind the batting cage.
"Ultimately, one or the other may take off and make it impossible to not use them," Brenly said.
Koppy getting stronger: After spending the past week working on stretching and getting a good range of motion in his shoulder, right-hander Mike Koplove began a strengthening program Tuesday.
Koplove, who is on the DL for the second time this year with tendinitis in his shoulder, thought he might begin throwing Thursday, but it might be a little while after that.
"I want to make sure he's a little stronger," Lessard said. "I haven't even thought about his throwing yet."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.