Wells faces his former team in his second start with the Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday as the teams open a crucial three-game series at Petco Park.
The Padres (73-60) designated Wells (6-8, 5.46 ERA) for assignment on Aug. 9, and the 44-year-old starter said he thought his career was over. He went 0-3 with a 14.04 ERA in his final four games with San Diego.
However, hampered by injuries to their starters, the Dodgers (70-63) decided to give Wells another shot. They signed him last Friday, and he won his debut with his new team two days later, giving up two runs in five innings of a 6-2 win at New York’s Shea Stadium.
The burly Wells even bunted for a single leading off the fifth inning.
“It was good to see him back out there, helping us win a game,” manager Grady Little said.
Wells, who had not started since a 10-5 loss in St. Louis on Aug. 6, became the oldest pitcher to start for the Dodgers since the franchise moved from Brooklyn in 1958.
“It felt weird out there but I’ve been doing this for a long time,” Wells said. “It’s a big game, gimme the ball.”
Now, the Torrence, Calif. native will be squaring off against his hometown Padres. He went 6-10 in 27 starts after San Diego acquired him in a trade deadline deal with Boston last season, and also went 12-8 for the Padres in 2004.
“It’s nothing personal with the Padres, I have a lot of good friends on that team,” Wells told the Dodgers’ official Web site. “But when you step between the lines, we’re enemies.”
Wells is making his third career start against San Diego. He gave up three runs in six innings in a 9-1 loss on June 21, 2002 while with the New York Yankees in his only previous outing as an opposing pitcher in San Diego, and threw a complete game in an 8-1 win on Sept. 14, 1995 for Cincinnati.
San Diego’s Milton Bradley is 11-for-23 (.478) with three doubles and a homer all-time against Wells. Bradley has five homers and 11 RBIs over his last eight games overall.
The Dodgers have won four straight and come into this series on the heels of a three-game sweep of Washington. Los Angeles, which won the finale 10-9 in 12 innings on Wednesday, is just three games behind San Diego for the NL wild card lead.
Second baseman Jeff Kent went 7-for-11 in the series with the Nationals and had two doubles Wednesday, raising his career total to 534 and tying Lou Gehrig for 27th place.
“We feel good about where we are heading into this series,” Little said. “We don’t feel good about being behind, but we feel good about our chances, and we know we have to continue to play good baseball.”
The Padres lost 8-7 to Arizona on Thursday, failing to wrap up a four-game sweep and falling a game behind the division-leading Diamondbacks. San Diego, which lost for just the second time in nine games, entered the game leading the West by one percentage point.
The Padres have won five of their last six games against the Dodgers, including a three-game sweep June 5-7 in the teams’ last meeting in San Diego. The Padres have won 10 of 13 against the Dodgers at Petco Park dating to last season.
San Diego has struggled to fill Wells’ spot in the rotation, and on Friday the team will recall Jack Cassel (0-0, 6.00 ERA) from Triple-A Portland to make the start. Manager Bud Black toyed with the idea of using a series of relievers to pitch the opener, but decided against that plan.
“Bringing in a guy who has been starting regularly, we feel as though this gives us the best transition as we move forward,” Black told the Padres’ official Web site.
Cassel has made only one previous big league appearance, allowing two runs in three innings of relief in San Diego’s 11-inning, 12-7 win in Cincinnati on Aug. 10.