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Ryan recalls meeting with Big Unit

Ryan recalls meeting with Big Unit

ARLINGTON -- The meeting took place in 1992. The Rangers were in Seattle for a three-game series with the Mariners on Aug. 7-9 at the Kingdome. Both teams were on their way to losing seasons.

At some point during that three game series, Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson talked. They sat out in one of the bullpens before a game and talked about pitching.

"I've always been appreciative of people who have helped me in my career," Ryan said. "I just felt that if somebody asked me for my advice and my opinion, I was certainly open to trying to help them. If it were a series facing us, I might delay it, but under those circumstances, I'm open to helping people."

At the time, Ryan was nearing the end of his career with the Rangers and Johnson, who was 28 and in his fourth full season in the Majors, was still trying to find his way in the Major Leagues.

At the time of the meeting, Johnson was 7-11 with a 3.74 ERA on the season. He would finish 12-14 with a 3.77 ERA. But something clicked that night with Johnson when he talked with Ryan and in a couple of subsequent followup conversations.

While Ryan downplays his impact, Johnson has often credited baseball's all-time strikeout and no-hitter leader for helping turn around his career. The numbers suggest something helped Johnson.

Over the next 10 seasons, from 1993-2002, Johnson was one of the best pitchers in baseball, and certainly the most dominating left-hander in the game. In those 10 seasons, Johnson was 175-58 with a 2.73 ERA and 2,928 strikeouts. He won five Cy Young Awards and was co-MVP of the 2001 World Series when he won three games for the Diamondbacks in their seven-game victory over the Yankees.

"I just think Randy was on the verge of putting it all together at that point of his career," Ryan said. "Even if we hadn't visited, I still think it was a matter of time before he put it all together."

Johnson, now pitching for the Giants, now has a chance at reaching another milestone. He needs two more victories to become the 24th pitcher in Major League history to win 300 games in his career. Ryan and Don Sutton are tied for 14th with 324.

"For Randy to win 300, it will make his career complete," Ryan said. "Over a period of time, he was one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball, his strikeouts per nine innings is one of the highest for a pitcher with the number of innings and starts he has, so I think this will pretty much complete his career.

"When I think of Randy Johnson, I think of a very overpowering pitcher with a very dominant slider that neither right-handed or left-handed hitters had very much of a comfort zone off it."

Tom Glavine, who is on the disabled list with the Braves and hasn't pitched this year, is the only active pitcher in the 300 club. He has 300 wins. After Johnson comes Jamie Moyer, who is 46, with 249 wins and then Andy Pettitte with 219.

Once Johnson achieves the milestone, it could be a long time before anybody gets there again.

"There is that possibility with the way pitchers are being used nowadays," Ryan said. "It lessens the chance."

T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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