"I'd like to think I've got to be getting pretty close to batting practice," Johnson said. "I'm not sure, but I know anything beyond this point will just come as I throw more. To feel comfortable out there with all my pitches and to feel like the pitches are where they need to be at this point, considering I've only thrown my slider a couple of times, I feel like things are pretty good."Johnson no longer gives any thought to his back while throwing. "I've thrown a couple of times at 50-plus pitches, and tonight it gets a little sore and it works its way out," he said. "It's just building a tolerance to it like anyone else. I go out there now and I get the ball and try to do what I've tried to do over my career -- and that's throw strikes and get hitters out." Acceptable: Jose Valverde allowed a run on a hit and one walk in his first inning of the spring on Tuesday night against the Padres. "What I want to see is if his arm looks healthy, if his delivery looks fairly consistent which it was," pitching coach Bryan Price said. "He threw a couple of good splits, a couple of not so good, but overall the ball came out of his hand good, the velocity was good. I was pleased. I have a lower expectation the first time guys see hitters, because you're dealing with the adrenaline for the first time, and there's no way to prepare for that in bullpens or batting practice. I do expect he'll be sharper in his next outing." Valverde will no doubt be watched closely this spring as the D-backs are counting on him to be their closer. Over the past few seasons, Valverde has been dominant at times but has also had his share of struggles. Not acceptable: Melvin has been less than pleased with how his team has run the bases lately. The D-backs have a young core of position players that reported to Spring Training basically with a job already in hand, but Melvin said nothing is guaranteed. "We want these guys playing hard," Melvin said. "I'm not happy with the way the baserunning has gone here recently. We're trying to go first to third a lot, and we're not doing it as much as we should. The one thing we want to do in the non-steal situations is run the bases hard, take the extra base, go first to third a lot, and I'm not seeing enough of it right now. If it's something you're not used to doing, then you have to keep pushing it, because when you get into a game, you tend to fall back to the way you did it before. You can do it all you want in pregame drills and stress it all you want, but when they get into the game, that's when they have to challenge themselves and get out of their comfort zones a little bit and find out what they can do. And if we don't see it, we're going to address it." Up next: After two games in the Phoenix area, the D-backs return to Tucson on Thursday to take on the Angels at 1:05 p.m. MST. It will be the first matchup of the spring between the two teams. Left-hander Doug Davis, acquired in an offseason deal with the Brewers, will make the start for the D-backs. Dustin Nippert, who is battling for one of the final spots in the rotation, is also scheduled to throw.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less