Slow-starting Wolf shows he's ready

Slow-starting Wolf shows he's ready

TEMPE, Ariz. -- It was after his first Cactus League start on March 1 when Randy Wolf warned reporters that he was a slow starter and that it often took an entire spring for him to get himself ready for the regular season.

Turns out, the left-handed Wolf, scheduled to be the fourth starter in the Padres' starting rotation, knows himself pretty well.

In his longest start of the spring -- and, by his guess, his longest spring appearance in his career -- Wolf allowed five hits and one walk in six scoreless innings of a 4-4 tie against the Angels on Monday in Tempe.

"I've never been a numbers guy in Spring Training. ... It's a progression, at least for me, getting comfortable," Wolf said, his left arm wrapped in ice. "Once you're comfortable, you start locking into how you pitch, reading hitters."

Working against an Angels lineup that included Gary Matthews Jr., Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter, Garret Anderson and Chone Figgins, Wolf got seven ground-ball outs and nine fly-ball outs in throwing close to, by his guess, 100 pitches.

"I've seen the velocity pick up over the last couple of starts," Padres manager Bud Black said. "He had a nice changeup and spotted his fastball."

Wolf, who had allowed at least two earned runs in each of his prior Cactus League games this spring, was coming off an outing on March 19 against a Brewers Class A team that saw him walk five in three innings.

The walks in that game, Wolf believes, were a result of an adjustment he made on his own in his lower body mechanics during his delivery. That adjustment essentially messed with an adjustment pitching coach Darren Balsley made a few weeks ago to get him throwing on a downhill plane.

The lesson learned?

"He [Balsley] said, 'Don't make any more adjustments, unless I say so,'" Wolf said. "I totally trust him."

Wolf will throw between 60-80 pitches in his final spring start Saturday in an exhibition game in Anaheim against these same Angels. He'll then make his Padres debut on April 3 against the Astros at PETCO Park.

At this point, Wolf -- who, for understandable reasons, detests pitching in Spring Training -- is ready for the regular season.

"Every Spring Training has been pretty similar for me," Wolf said. "It goes up and down, pretty frustrating. You get to a point near the end where you're not experimenting, you're more comfortable with your delivery. You go out there and try to get outs, going pitch to pitch. It feels more like a game.

"When you get toward the end, I treat it more like a season start."

Corey Brock is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.