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Big Unit on number retirement: “In due time”

Three years ago to the day, Randy Johnson pitched six
strong
innings for the San Francisco Giants in a 6-1 win over the
Washington Nationals.

The effort was good enough for a victory — the 300th in
Johnson’s remarkable career.

Three years later, Johnson was back at Chase Field, site
of
65 of those wins, where he was being introduced as the
brand
ambassador of luxury Swiss watch manufacturer Ulysse
Nardin.

Johnson answered questions about his new role as celebrity
spokesperson, but eventually the discussion turned to the
Big
Unit’s career in Arizona and when his number 51 will be
retired by the organization.

“In due time,” Johnson said. “I know they wanted to do it
right away, but I wasn’t ready for it. I wanted to put a
little distance between myself and the
game and just enjoy life. I played 22 years.”

Speaking about the impending honor also stirred up some
not-
so-pleasant memories about how Johnson’s storied career in
the desert came to an end. After returning to the
Diamondbacks for the 2008 season, Johnson became a free
agent
just five wins away from the magic 300-win plateau. The
two
sides couldn’t agree on a deal that would allow the future
Hall of Famer to finish his career in Arizona, so he
signed a
one-year pact with San Francisco.

“It also hurt a little bit, the way things ended here. I
wanted to come back here and win my 300th game,” Johnson
said. “I told my agents that, I was willing to slash my
salary in half. And then after seeing some of the players
here like an Eric Byrnes, who was making $10 million and
they
cut him and let him go, to not have me come back and win
my
300th game here after I did, that hurt a little bit.”

Johnson is the Diamondbacks’ all-time leader in wins (118)
and strikeouts (2,077). He won four National League Cy
Young
Awards with the D-backs, and helped the organization win
their lone World Series championship in 2001.

Arizona Sports’ Craig Grialou contributed to this
report