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06/04/08 7:55 PM ET
Ryan impressed by Big Unit's feat
All-time strikeout leader may have helped mold Johnson
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
ARLINGTON -- Nolan Ryan isn't exactly worried that someday somebody might surpass his all-time strikeout record. Ryan is still over 1,000 strikeouts ahead of everybody else. But he is impressed that Randy Johnson has endured through his physical problems and was able to move into second place on the all-time strikeout list on Tuesday night. Johnson struck out eight batters against the Brewers and pushed past Roger Clemens to claim the No. 2 spot behind Ryan. "You've got to tip your cap to Randy," Ryan said on Wednesday afternoon. "He's really hung in there with all his back problems. So does it surprise me that he's in second place? No, because not only his ability to strike people out but also because he obviously wants to retire on his own terms, rather than because of an injury. And I'm sure he'd like to pitch in another World Series." Ryan, who retired in 1993 after 27 seasons and is now the Rangers club president, holds the all-time record with 5,714 strikeouts. Johnson is now second with 4,680 strikeouts. Johnson, who missed two-thirds of last season with a back problem, is 44 and hasn't struck out 200 batters in a season since 2004. So passing Ryan isn't likely. But he is still No. 1 all-time with 10.76 strikeouts per nine innings. Ryan struck out 9.55 per nine innings. "Randy is a real hard worker, who has always made the most of his ability to be the best possible pitcher he can be," Ryan said. "Obviously, being 6-foot-10 is an extra challenge others don't have because of how that affects your windup. I have to give him credit for doing what he's done. He obviously enjoys the game and enjoys competing because I certainly don't think he's doing this for financial reasons." Johnson has had help along the way and Ryan is high on the list. He and Ryan had a long talk about pitching late in the 1992 season that was a turning point in Johnson's career. Johnson was finishing up a season in which he was 12-14 with a 3.98 ERA. The next year he jumped up to 19-8 with a 3.24 ERA while striking out over 300 batters for the first time in his career. Johnson has since given both Ryan and former Rangers pitching coach Tom House credit for helping him get turned around. Ryan and Johnson have remained friends, although they haven't been able to talk much lately. "I used to talk to him every once in a while over the phone if he was having an issue with his delivery or something and wanted my perspective," Ryan said. "I like watching people compete and understand what it takes to compete. If you have a personal relationship with someone as I do with Randy, it makes it more interesting." There is nobody else behind Johnson who poses a threat to Ryan. The next active pitcher on the all-time list is Greg Maddux, who is 11th overall with 3,311 strikeouts. "If anybody it's Randy, but as far as the young guys, I don't think he's surfaced," Ryan said.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.