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‘Proven winner’ to replace Unit?

The Associated Press



Jon Garland refuses to get caught up in trying to replace future Hall of Famer Randy Johnson.

Nevertheless, the recently acquired right-hander is being called upon to fill that large void in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ rotation following Johnson’s departure to the San Francisco Giants.

“With Randy gone, we need another innings eater pitching in the top four spots and that’s exactly what we got,” Diamondbacks manager Bob Melvin said. “We got a proven winner and another guy who gets you, if not 200 innings, close to 200 innings.”

Garland has pitched at least 190 innings in each of the past seven seasons – from 2002-07 with the Chicago White Sox then last year with the Los Angeles Angels. He has won 10 to 18 games per season.

“In my mind, if you can go out and put up 200 innings or something near that, you’re doing something right to stay in the game that long,” Garland said.

“You’re obviously giving your team a chance if you’re going that deep and to me, if I was a manager, that’s what I’d want from my pitchers. I like to try and give the bullpen a day off every time I take the mound.”

Garland signed a one-year, $6.25 million deal with the Diamondbacks in January with a mutual option for the 2010 season, which would carry a $10 million tag. Should the Diamondbacks decline the option for 2010, Garland would receive an additional $2.5 million for this season. If Garland declines the option, he’d receive $1 million.

Garland joins a starting rotation anchored by Brandon Webb, Dan Haren and Doug Davis. General Manager Josh Byrnes said Monday that with the addition of Garland, and the potential emergence of second-year pitcher Max Scherzer, this year’s Diamondbacks starting rotation “has to be in the conversation” about the National League’s best starting rotations.

After a career in the American League, Garland is anxious to pick the brains of new teammates about throwing in the NL, where there is no designated hitter.

“When you have that pitcher in the nine spot, your thought process might be a little bit different going into different innings,” said Garland, who added he’ll also have to adjust himself to having to hit much more than he did in the American League.

Garland’s 4.90 ERA in 2008 with the Angels was the worst for a full season in his career. Still, he posted a 14-8 record, and the Diamondbacks aren’t concerned with trying to change anything the pitcher does.

“To me, with an established player it’s more about keeping him consistent,” said Diamondbacks pitching coach Bryan Price. “If there is something you can add along the way that makes him a better pitcher, that’s great. But it’s more important to keep him within that framework of what has already made him a great pitcher.”

Garland is receiving nothing but praise from the Diamondbacks.

Price said Garland showed up to camp in excellent physical condition, but was more impressed with his leadership and willingness to be vocal with new teammates during instructional drills.

“That shows not only leadership,” Price said, “but a desire to not only be good himself but share what he knows with other people.”

‘Proven winner’ to replace Big Unit?

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