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Notes: Unit to pitch on Thursday
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07/08/2004 11:10 PM ET
Notes: Unit to pitch on Thursday
Short All-Star stint would allow start against Dodgers
tickets for any Major League Baseball game
Randy Johnson should be able to start against the Dodgers next Thursday. (Lenny Ignelzi/AP)
SAN FRANCISCO -- If all goes according to plan, ace pitcher Randy Johnson will start next Thursday's game against the Dodgers at Bank One Ballpark.

Johnson is scheduled to make his last start of the first half on Friday against the Giants. His next appearance would likely be in Tuesday's All-Star Game.

Diamondbacks manager Al Pedrique spoke with All-Star skipper Jack McKeon and expressed his preference that Johnson only throw one inning in the Midsummer Classic. Provided that the Big Unit doesn't have to throw a lot of pitches to get through that inning, he should be ready to go when the season resumes on Thursday.

That would set up the Arizona rotation to start the second half with Johnson followed by Brandon Webb, Casey Fossum, Elmer Dessens and Steve Sparks.

Ring, ring: Diamondbacks general manager Joe Garagiola Jr. said that he spoke with Casey Close, the agent for Richie Sexson, on Thursday.

"It was a good conversation," Garagiola said, declining to elaborate on the specifics of the chat.

Sexson, who was acquired in a nine-player deal with the Brewers during the offseason, is in the final year of his contract. Diamondbacks CEO Jerry Colangelo recently met with Sexson and told him that the club would like to have him back.

Sexson is on the 60-day disabled list after having season-ending shoulder surgery.

Back problems: Right fielder Danny Bautista and reliever Scott Service are both suffering from lower back strains and will likely not see action for the rest of the first half.

"It's feeling better," Bautista said. "I'm not ready to play yet, though."

Bautista first experienced trouble with back Monday in Los Angeles and was removed from the game. He has not played or swung a bat since.

Service said that his back has bothered him for a while now and that it was one of the reasons he struggled against the Dodgers on Monday. In that game, the reliever allowed a pinch-hit, three-run homer in a 6-5 loss. The right-hander said that the injury forces him to fall off the mound rather than get behind his pitches.

"I could pitch, but I don't want to go out there and hurt the team like I did in LA," he said.

With Bautista unavailable and the team carrying 13 pitchers, it leaves Pedrique with just three position players on the bench. With that in mind, the team could decide to place either Bautista or Service on the disabled list and call up a position player.

Playing with a 24-man roster is something Pedrique is used to, as he spent the 2002-03 seasons managing in Triple-A, where the roster limit is 24.

"Down there it's a different story," Pedrique said. "Up here you have to win."

Walk this way: Pedrique was asked about how he planned to pitch to Giants slugger Barry Bonds during the series.

"Pitch him?" he replied smiling. "I would say (how we plan) to walk him. I think the game is going to dictate how we're going to do that. I think I'm going to stick with the plan that all the managers have. Depending on the game situation and what the score is, I will make a decision."

It was then suggested to him that with his team so far out of the NL West race, Pedrique had less to lose by challenging Bonds.

"I don't think I want to try to show baseball people that I'm the tough guy, that I'm going to challenge Barry," Pedrique said. "Our goal is to win as many games as we can the rest of the way. That's one thing that we're trying to get through to the young players.

"I know we're in the process right now of rebuilding and giving the kids a chance to play and see what they can do at this level, but at the same time we'd like to win as many games as we can."

This, that and the other: Sparks will be available out of the bullpen on Saturday and Sunday. ... Injured reliever Brandon Lyon is expected to increase the distance he plays catch at to 120 feet over the weekend. If that goes well, he could begin throwing off a mound during Wednesday's workout. It would be the first time he's thrown off the mound since the first week of Spring Training.

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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