Trying to replace Jose Fernandez in the Miami starting rotation for the 2014 season will be a forever long struggle. Whether it’s an unpolished prospect with potential of a nomadic veteran pitcher with perspective, one will not be enough.
Randy Wolf is a nice story. After going through Tommy John Surgery himself in 2012, it seemed the 13-year veteran’s career was at its end.
He returned from Tommy John and made the Seattle starting rotation out of spring training but the Mariners tried to get him to sign a deal that would allow the team to cut him within 45 days and be financially responsible for nothing. Wolf wasn’t having any of that jive, so he jetted off to pursue other big league opportunities with confidence that his preseason performance would warrant a second shot.
He signs a minor league deal with the Diamondbacks but reported to Reno for a Triple-A tune-up. Both the Major league starters and the minor league starters were struggling, but everyone except Wolf was getting called up in an effort to control the chaos in Arizona. It was clear that he was never a part of the plans.
The Marlins signed him out of desperation but also called up Anthony DeSclafani from Double-A Jacksonville. Wolf relieved both of DeSclafani starts and took his spot on Sunday after striking out five batters and giving up only one run in five relief innings.
The Milwaukee Brewers stacked the deck against Wolf with an all-righty lineup on Sunday and that led to a five run outing. Marlins manager Mike Redmond gave him a mulligan and sent him out there again on Monday against the Tampa Bay Rays.
The mulligan paid off for Redmond. Wolf held the Rays to only one run in the Marlins 3-1 victory. It was his first Major League win since July of 2012 prior to his second Tommy John surgery.
"It's been a long, crazy road, especially recently," Wolf said. "In 2012, when I found out I had no ligament, it was tough news, I knew it was going to be a long road. It was tough in 2013 to be home. I tried to make the most of it, kind of having an unknown future. Obviously, you're kind of counted out because of your age and it being the second [surgery].
"It is a gratifying feeling to work hard and come back, and have a win. For me, it's not time to sit back and relax. I feel I have more to do, and more to do to help this team."
Having Wolf in the rotation is a break from the norm. The Marlins top four guys are energetic youngsters who throw high heat at a regular basis. Wolf is your classic crafty veteran pitcher who looks to utilize location to make up for low velocity in his fastball. Off-speed and breaking pitches are the name of the game for Wolf.
“He has a lot of experience,” said Jeff Mathis who caught all but one of Wolf’s Marlins appearances, “knows what he wants to do, has a plan that he wants to put in play and execute. So that makes him a lot of fun to catch.”
Being a 37-year-old starting pitcher coming off Tommy John surgery, one’s got to be mindful with managing his bullets. Every now and then, Marlins pitching coach Chuck Hernandez checks on Wolf to see how much he has left in the game and according to Wolf, he’s honest to Hernandez. The future is unknown but Wolf knows he at least has enough this season.
“I know I have 2014 left,” Wolf said. “I feel like I have a pretty good routine. I’ve thrown the same as I’ve always thrown. It’s not like I was a flamethrower ever in my career and the fact I’ve always thrown 88 mph, it’s not like I have to make a huge adjustment."
Wolf’s lone bad outing was when the opponent stacked the deck against him with an all-righty lineup. Take that start against the Brewers out of the equation and Wolf has given up only two earned runs in 16 innings. This could be a special season for the veteran.
The Wolf Pack Game
In honor of having Randy Wolf in the Marlins rotation, I created a fun little game called the Wolf Pack Game where I ask a Marlin player to take three teammates for a hypothetical trip to Las Vegas. Marlins reliever Dan Jennings was nice enough to play along.
Dan Jenning’s wolf pack: Mike Dunn, Steve Cishek and Brett Butler
Why Butler? “To keep us accountable,” Jennings said. That is either good strategy or the recipe for a boring night on the strip.
Teammate most likely to take down the casino: Mike Dunn
“I feel like he sits on the table with a careless attitude and let it all ride,” Jennings said.
On a side note: with the proper attire, Mike Dunn looks like Heisenberg from Breaking Bad.
Teammate most likely to lose everything at the casino: Steve Cishek
“Because I knew he’d cringe hearing that,” Jennings said pointing to his frugalness.
Teammate most likely to wake up with a regrettable tattoo: Mike Dunn
Most likely to be caught falling asleep at the sports booking section of the casino: I can only imagine the 56-year-old third base coach.