- The Washington Times - Monday, April 1, 2002

PHOENIX They were 43-12 with 665 strikeouts and a 2.74 earned run average perhaps the greatest season by pitching teammates in the game's history.
They were co-MVPs of the World Series and Sports Illustrated's sportsmen of the year.
So what can Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling do for an encore?
More of the same, they say, or maybe better.
"I've been doing what I've been doing for the last six or seven years," Johnson said. "Curt has finally come into his own. I don't think it's something that can't happen again."
Not even Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale packed the kind of lefty-righty wallop that Johnson and Schilling threw at opposing hitters last season in leading the Arizona Diamondbacks to the World Series championship.
Yet Schilling, whose 22-6 record was a career-best, says the comparison with the great Dodgers duo is premature.
"It's tremendously flattering, but I know the history of the game," Schilling said. "Koufax and Drysdale were teammates for an extended period of time and did it for a long period of time. If three or four years from now people are still making those comparisons, then maybe some part of that will be valid."
Johnson and Schilling arrived this spring primed for a repeat performance.
"They're trying to come out of the chute early," catcher Damian Miller said. "I don't know if they're pushing each other or what."
There is no doubt that they have made each other better.
"Absolutely," Schilling said, "and he's made me a better golfer, too."
Both are intensely competitive, but the resemblance ends there.
"We're extreme opposites in some instances," Johnson said. "He's a man of many words. Me, I just like to go out and pitch, then I go home. I'm not one who wants to hang around here and small talk with a lot of people."
Johnson has won the National League Cy Young Award in each of his three seasons at Arizona, compiling a 57-22 record with an amazing 1,083 strikeouts.
Last season, he was 21-6 with a league-leading 2.49 ERA. His 13.4 strikeouts per nine innings is a major league record.
At 38, he has never been better but sees room for improvement. The same goes for Schilling at age 35.
"They both want to get better," manager Bob Brenly said. "They both think there's room for improvement. It's hard to believe they could better what they did last year, but that's the attitude you love to see from them."
In the postseason, Johnson and Schilling were a combined 9-1 with a 1.17 ERA.
After losing a game to St. Louis in the division series to run his postseason losing streak to six, Johnson reeled off five consecutive victories, a major league record. He beat the New York Yankees three times in the World Series, including 11/3 innings in relief in Arizona's come-from-behind victory in Game 7.
As the series triumph unfolded, and in the months afterward, Johnson's scowl lost a bit of its edge.
"Yeah, I loosened up a little bit and felt like there wasn't quite as much pressure put on me every fifth day because Curt was here and there were a lot of other great contributions," Johnson said.
The World Series triumph has made him even more relaxed.
"A lot of the accolades we both got last year were nice, but that's not what I play for," Johnson said. "What I play for is to do what we did last year. Now I can feel like my career has been fulfilled in a lot of different capacities from an individual standpoint, from a performance standpoint and from a team standpoint. We were on top of the mountain for a year."
But is the motivation to stay on top equal to what it took to get there?
"Absolutely," Schilling said. "I mean, why wouldn't it be? I can't even imagine looking at this year any differently."
Johnson said that while in some ways it is harder to repeat because you're everybody's target, in other ways it should be easier.
"When you've been there, now you know what it takes to get there," he said. "The kind of contribution it takes to have it be a successful season. The biggest thing I was always wondering prior to last year is what did it take for a team to get to the World Series. What do you have to have?"
Because the World Series ended in November, the winter layoff was about a month shorter than usual. Maybe that's why both pitchers seemed to pick up where they left off in terms of control of their entire repertoire.
Schilling came to spring training buoyed by his wife's successful battle against skin cancer. The couple is expecting their third child, and second son, in July. They are both family men. Johnson has four children.
The rest of the Arizona pitching staff was 49-57 last season, but Schilling and Johnson are hoping for more help this year.
The Diamondbacks acquired right-hander Rick Helling in the offseason. If Todd Stottlemyre is successful in his comeback from injury and Brian Anderson bounces back from an off year, the rotation should be much stronger.
But everyone knows that the Diamondbacks will go as far as the powerful arms of their two warriors will take them.
"It's very realistic they can put up better numbers," Miller said. "It's not going to be easy to do, but there's no indication they've lost anything. They're both very competitive guys, and I'm sure they're looking forward to the challenge."


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