PHOENIX -- Randy Johnson faced hitters for the first time Saturday as he threw a session of batting practice on a back field at Maryvale Baseball Park. Chris Carter, Robby Hammock, Justin Upton, Rich Thompson, Mark Reynolds and Josh Ford took turns stepping into the cage as Johnson threw 53 pitches. They swung at 28 of them and didn't hit many hard. Johnson will likely throw one more batting-practice session before pitching in a Cactus League game. That's when Johnson, recovering from offseason back surgery, will actually be able to set up hitters and get an feeling for where he's at.
"It was nice to face some hitters," he said. "I don't know what their plans are -- maybe do [batting practice] again and then after that hopefully everything will be fine. I think then and only then will I get a good idea of how good my stuff is at this point." Johnson might be waiting for that, but the left-handed-hitting Carter, who posted a .301 mark with 30 doubles and 19 homers in Triple-A last year, already has his mind made up. "He may be the best pitcher I've ever faced, and he's not even [100 percent]," Carter said. "He was hitting his spots, had a good arm angle and good movement. It was impressive." General manager Josh Byrnes along with manager Bob Melvin were among those that watched Johnson. "He was good," Byrnes said. "It was a good step to face hitters, and the important thing is that he feels OK. Throwing live BP for the first time is not a great barometer, other than of how he feels physically. It was good for him to cross that threshold." Johnson now has five bullpen sessions and one batting practice under his belt. "I'm pleased with where I'm at right now, as I have been with every step," Johnson said. "To not have any real setbacks other than maybe a stiff back here or there, I think that's to be expected, especially with the workload that I've been doing this quickly. I'm pretty pleased." Familiar faces: Dana Eveland got the start Saturday against his former team and allowed just one run on four hits over three innings. "Outstanding," Melvin said. "He gives up the one run, but threw the ball great. Had to pitch a little differently because they know him very well."
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.