Saturday, August 25, 2007

David Wells to the Dodgers

David Wells slipped a crisp, blue Dodgers cap onto his shaved head and wiggled into a baggy pair of baseball pants. Then he dashed up the runway to throw a quick bullpen session. Boomer is back in the pennant race — and he doesn't have much time to prepare for his first start with Los Angeles.

The 44-year-old Wells made it official Friday, signing with the Dodgers for the rest of the season. The burly left-hander joined his new team at Shea Stadium and is scheduled to pitch against the New York Mets on Sunday night in a nationally televised game.

"I'm getting a second life here," Wells said. "I thought I was done."

Not yet.

Cut by his hometown San Diego Padres on Aug. 9, Wells said he'd been "sitting around" for more than two weeks. He didn't throw at all, besides playing catch with his kids a couple of times. But as soon as he and the playoff-contending Dodgers agreed to a deal Thursday, they penciled him in to face the NL East leaders in an important game Sunday.

"Nothing like getting thrown in the fire. I've accepted a lot of challenges in my career, but this is going to rank right up there," Wells said. "I'm just going to go out and pour my heart into it."

The Dodgers made room for Wells by designating struggling right-hander Brett Tomko for assignment. Wells will replace Tomko in the rotation.

"It's time. Everybody knows it's been a rough year for me here," Tomko said as Wells got dressed in the locker next to him. "There's just cause. They want to make a move. It's not like they're bringing in a chump. I'm fine with it."

The outspoken Wells caught an early flight out of San Diego on Friday and arrived at Shea Stadium about two hours before the first pitch of Los Angeles' series opener against the Mets.

After scanning the clubhouse for his new locker and unpacking a Padres equipment bag, he played long toss in the outfield and threw about 25 pitches in his bullpen session.

"I was a little erratic out there," Wells said, adding that finding proper balance on the mound was one of his biggest concerns after the long layoff. The Dodgers, Wells' ninth team in a 21-year career, don't sound too worried.

"He likes pitching in big games and we're going to try to get ourselves in a position where we've got several of those left," manager Grady Little said. "The only thing I know about David Wells is that when he goes out there he's going to give you everything he's got."

Hampered by injuries to its pitching staff, Los Angeles began the night 2 1/2 games behind San Diego, the NL wild card leader.

The Dodgers have had to go with Tomko and Mark Hendrickson, among others, as starters because of injuries to Jason Schmidt, Randy Wolf and Hong-Chih Kuo. Tomko is 2-11 with a 5.80 ERA and Hendrickson is 4-7 with a 5.09 ERA.

Wells struggled in his last four outings with the Padres, going 0-3 with a 14.33 ERA. Overall, he was 5-8 with a 5.54 ERA. After facing the Mets, Wells could start against the Padres next weekend in San Diego, which is also in the hunt for an NL playoff spot.

"David is an established veteran and has a long track record of success," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said in a statement. "He's a true competitor who has pitched well down the stretch numerous times and we believe he can do so again this season."

Wells has 235-156 career record and is 10-5 with a 3.17 ERA in 27 postseason games, including 17 starts. He is 37-25 with a 3.90 ERA in 115 September games, 73 of them starts.

Wells, who pitched a perfect game for the New York Yankees in 1998, will get a prorated salary with the Dodgers plus performance bonuses that would allow him to make $800,000 if he starts seven games.

His contract with the Padres called for him to make $176,470 per start from Nos. 11-27. He made 22 starts for San Diego.

"My heart tells me that I've got a lot left in the tank," Wells said. "I might not look sexy, but I feel sexy." Tomko said he occasionally pitched with a bad back this year, a problem that began in spring training.

"We never knew of anything that would keep him from pitching," Little said.


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