05/11/08 1:50 PM ET
Big Unit scratched from Sunday start
Rain in Chicago forces D-backs to be cautious about his health
By Steve Gilbert / MLB.com
"If we play, Edgar [Gonzalez] will start," D-backs manager Bob Melvin said just under two hours before the scheduled starting time.
The rain and windy conditions were a factor in the decision not to pitch the 44-year-old, who is coming off his second back surgery in as many years. In addition, the club did not want to start Johnson and then not have him pitch many innings if there was a long rain delay once the game got under way.
"I think it's pretty obvious," Melvin said. "With a guy that's had the problems he's had with his back, to send him out there in those conditions, not only with what certainly would be a wet field, but windy conditions which play on the back. There are a lot of reasons not to pitch him today."
Melvin informed Johnson of his decision at around 9 a.m. MST.
"It was Bob Melvin's decision," Johnson said. "He was thinking that with so much uncertainty in today's game he just thought it might be in my best interests not to pitch today and pitch on Tuesday. What are you going to do? I was prepared to pitch, but with so much uncertainty I think that's why."
The D-backs have Monday off, so Johnson's next start will come Tuesday against the Rockies at Chase Field. That means each starter in the rotation will get an extra two days between starts.
"It is more rest, but not ideal," Melvin said. "These are the things you have to deal with."
Johnson said he planned on playing catch at some point on Sunday in an effort to stay sharp, despite the long layoff between starts.
"I'm not going to make a big deal about it," he said. "I'm not pitching, I'm going to go out and play some catch because I don't want to go this long without playing catch."
Johnson is 2-1 with a 5.06 ERA in five starts this year. In 2007, he made 10 starts before reherniating the disc in his back. Johnson had surgery on the back in early August and started this season on the disabled list.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.