Randy Wolf spent the early part of his career in the middle of a mediocre Philadelphia Phillies’ rotation, but by 2003 the left-hander had become an All-Star and Philadelphia thought it had a potential ace in its hands.
If not for a series of elbow problems, he might still be there.
Wolf, now a member of the San Diego Padres, will make his first start against the team who developed him on Thursday when he and the Padres close a three-game set in Philadelphia.
Wolf (2-1, 3.68 ERA) emerged as one of the NL’s best pitchers in 2002 and 2003, but spent much of the next season on the DL with left elbow tendinitis, and by 2005 he had to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair ligament damage in his pitching elbow.
He struggled with his control when he came back in 2006, then signed a one-year deal the next season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, going 9-6 with a 4.73 ERA in a season plagued by a shoulder injury.
Now with the Padres (11-17), Wolf is looking to complete his first full season since he was an All-Star in 2003 with Philadelphia (15-13). He’s not sure what to expect in his first start against his former club.
“It’s going to be exciting and kind of weird,” Wolf told the Padres’ official Web site. “A lot of the guys over there I played with. Of course, when you’re competing against guys you’re friends with, then it makes for an interesting experience. I’m excited. Obviously, with their lineup, it’s a tough task. You have to be on your game.”
Wolf was on his game in his first three starts, pitching 19 innings and going 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA. He hasn’t been so impressive in his last two outings, giving up nine runs in 10 1-3 innings.
Wolf’s mound opponent on Thursday will see some familiar faces on the opposing team as well. Adam Eaton (0-0, 5.08) was originally drafted by the Phillies, but he was traded to San Diego in late 1999 and spent his first six major-league seasons there before he was dealt to Texas in 2006.
After one season as a Ranger, Eaton signed with Philadelphia, though the results haven’t been impressive.
He was 10-10 with a 6.29 ERA last season, and after three solid starts to open 2008, Eaton has gotten into trouble in his last two. He lasted just 3 2-3 innings on Friday at Pittsburgh, allowing three runs and getting pulled in a 6-5 win in which the Phillies staked him to a 6-0 lead.
“I wasn’t happy, obviously,” Eaton told the team’s official Web site. “With a big lead like that, you’d like to get out there as long as you can.”
While the Padres are batting .228 and have scored 92 runs—both the worst marks in baseball—Philadelphia has one of baseball’s best offensive players in its lineup.
Second baseman Chase Utley leads the major with 11 homers and is hitting .360 with 23 RBIs.
He hit his 11th long ball on Wednesday, though it came in a losing effort. Chris Young—who was sent from Texas to San Diego for Eaton—pitched six impressive innings to give the Padres a 4-2 win, just their third in their last 14 games.
Utley’s two-run shot was the only damage.
“He’s the best hitter in baseball right now,” Young said. “If you’re gonna give up hits, you’re better off giving them up to the best.”
One of the few bright spots in San Diego’s lineup has been first baseman Adrian Gonzalez (five homers, 19 RBIs), who homered on Wednesday. Gonzalez seems to be comfortable in Citizens Bank Park - in his last five games there, he’s hitting .409 (9-for-22) with three home runs.