Johnson, 45, refreshed, ready to join Giants

With two recent back surgeries behind him, Randy Johnson is refreshed and focused on being a baseball player again this winter — rather than a pitcher limited to rigorous rehabilitation work, his case the past two offseasons.

The 45-year-old Big Unit has been playing catch for three weeks already — and now is busy preparing to join his new San Francisco Giants teammates when spring training starts in February.

Johnson and San Francisco agreed to an $8 million, one-year contract Friday, giving the Giants one of the deepest starting rotations in baseball with three Cy Young Award winners. Johnson has won five Cy Youngs and is five victories away from No. 300.

“I’m well ahead of schedule than I was the last two offseasons,” Johnson said Saturday during a conference call, noting he plans to be on the 2009 Opening Day roster. “It will be really nice to be in that position this year. … To some degree I have silenced the critics and shown that I’m healthy.”

Also: Willy Taveras and the Cincinnati Reds agreed to a two-year contract, filling the team’s need for a center fielder and leadoff hitter.

The speedy Taveras is coming off a disappointing season with Colorado. He batted .251 with a paltry .308 on-base percentage, though he did lead the major leagues with 68 stolen bases.

Taveras, who turned 27 on Christmas, became a free agent when the Rockies decided not to offer him a contract by the Dec. 12 deadline.


Raiders’ Davis to miss game vs. Buccaneers

Oakland Raiders managing general partner Al Davis heeded the warnings of his physicians and did not make the trip to Tampa, Fla., for today’s game against the Buccaneers, Raiders executive John Herrera told the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times.

Davis, Herrera said, contemplated arranging for a private flight but listened to doctors who didn’t want him to impede his recovery from swelling in his right knee and ankle.

Herrera said he thinks the only other time Davis ever missed a game was when his wife, Carole, was hospitalized in 1979 after a heart attack.

Also: Former New England Patriots player and high school football coach Danny Villa surrendered to police in his native Arizona after a court in Massachusetts issued a warrant for his arrest on charges that he raped a child.

Walpole Police Chief Richard Stillman said Villa, 44, surrendered to authorities in Tucson and his attorney has indicated that he plans to waive rendition. He faces three counts of rape of a child over 14 and three counts of enticing a minor, he said.

Villa played in the NFL for 12 seasons, including six with the Patriots.

St. Louis Blues left wing Paul Kariya will have surgery on his left hip and could miss the rest of the season.

Kariya, 34, hasn’t played since Nov. 5 in Anaheim, when his body was wrenched by a hit from behind and he tore muscle fibers near the top of his thigh.

Indian Blessing beat Ginger Pop by 11/2 lengths to take the $250,000 La Brea Stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif.

Bsharpsonata was a nose back in the field of seven.

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