Dodgers rely on $5 million bargain
The Dodgers’ Randy Wolf has been as consistent as any starting pitcher they’ve had.
Monday, August 24, 2009
If this is indeed the year of the Freeway Series, it also might be the year of the Five Million Dollar Men.
Abreu is making $5million, for one year, an obvious windfall for
everyone west of Goldman Sachs and a major league park, but a bitter
horse pill when you’re as rich as Abreu. Yet the outfielder has
connected the loose ends of the Angels lineup.
Wolf is also making $5 million, for one year, which makes him worth
about as much as one of CC Sabathia’s feet. Without him the Dodgers
rotation would have careened off its axis long ago.
has started 27 times and gone six innings or more in 24. In his past
four starts Wolf is 3-0 and has made it through seven innings every
time. He is left-handed, which helps, but he is not tossing Frisbees up
there. Wolf has given up an on-base percentage of .284, seventh in the
NL and lower than that of Johan Santana and Roy Oswalt.
velocity is deceptive and so is the story. Wolf was a Dodger before, in
’07. He was shut down that season by shoulder problems that turned out
to be operable but not structural. Before that he was in and out of
rotations because of an elbow problem that required Tommy John surgery.
Wolf, who turned 33 on Saturday, is grateful for health. He patiently corrects those who assume he hasn’t maintained it.
was one injury,” Wolf said the other day. He’s a 5-foot-10 redhead,
chatty and inquisitive. He probably has a broadcast booth in his
future, or a coaches’ room. Think Orel Hershiser with about half the
“It just took three years to get over
it,” he said. “It was difficult, going on and off all the disabled list
and people wondering if you were durable enough. I was trying to pitch
with a clipped wing.”
So when Wolf’s shoulder
began barking in his first Dodger tour, he initially rebelled. “But
there’s no way I only throw 84 mph,” he said.
night he pitched a rehab game at San Bernardino and drove home, with a
dull ache and a sharp anxiety. Lying in bed, he reached for the remote
control, and knives plunged in.
even pick it up,” he said. “I was a little concerned at that point. I’d
had a chance to sign for three years elsewhere but I signed for one
year here because it was home (Canoga Park, Pepperdine). But when they
went in there they didn’t find anything that really needed fixing. They
just cleaned some things up. I’ve been fine ever since.”
As you might have noticed, pitching is weird.
enjoyed three 200-inning seasons in Philadelphia, and some upper-deck
kids formed the “Wolf Pak” and cavorted in unison when he worked. Wolf
won 48 games in a four-year stretch. Then, when health returned, he was
dragging through a 6-10 season in San Diego last year and got traded to
One day he was playing catch with
reliever Clint Sampson and the light went on, although it was more like
a fluorescent light that works gradually.
was trying to break down my windup,” he said, “and when I did it slower
I was getting better results. I could command the ball again. I
thought, hey, this might be something. I put it into games and it
“It’s like golf. It doesn’t
really matter how fast your backswing is. Your downswing is what
matters. But I was maxing out my windup and I didn’t have anything
left. It’s OK to give max effort as long as it’s in the right places.”
Houston charged up the NL Central standings, Wolf was 6-2 in 12 starts.
The Dodgers signed him for $3 million less than in 2007.
they hope his efficiency and command can infiltrate Chad Billingsley
and Clayton Kershaw, the putative No. 1 and 2 starters. Of course,
Billingsley is 12-7 and Kershaw 8-7 with a 2.96 ERA.
is, what, 21 and Chad 24?” Wolf asked, as he smiled. “They both came
right out of high school. They’re fine. They’ve made progress, but when
you throw pitches like they do, a lot of them are going to get fouled
off. Sometimes you have to pitch to contract and that involves throwing
off-speed, which they’re leaning. We talk, but I think they’re learning
a lot on their own.”
Wolf won Friday night and
then said he thought the word “ace” was used too often and not very
intelligently, since, after all, a deck has only four of them. Playoff
series often turn on which pitcher most resembles one. If the Dodgers
get there, maybe Wolf deserves Game 1. It’s nine innings, like all the
others, and nobody asks to examine your holdings.
Whicker, Mark. “Dodgers rely on $5 million bargain.” OC Register 24 August 2009. <http://www.ocregister.com/articles/wolf-one-year-2539754-innings-dodgers>