<
>

Alex Wood makes a good, but weird first impression

PHILADELPHIA -- A lot of things happened between the 20th and 21st starts of Alex Wood's season.

He got traded more than 2,000 miles west, but -- if the rumors are to be believed -- nearly got diverted north along the way.

Once he finally pulled on a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform, he kept getting mixed signals about when he would make his debut. First, he was on "Code Red" Saturday when the Dodgers weren't 100 percent sure their ace, Clayton Kershaw, would pitch because of a sore right hip. Then, he was asked to run down to the bullpen on Sunday as a game with the Los Angeles Angels went spinning into extra innings, just in case it kept going.

After all that turmoil, Wood flew back east with the team and took the mound as a Dodger in Philadelphia, less than 100 miles from where he had last taken the mound as a Brave -- in Baltimore -- completing one big, crazy circle.

"Oh man, it's been a weird last eight days for sure," Wood said.

It didn't have a happy ending. Wood got into trouble in the seventh inning and Maikel Franco clubbed a grand slam off Dodgers reliever Joel Peralta to give the Phillies a 6-2 win at Citizens Bank Park. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly second-guessed himself a bit for letting Wood take the mound for the seventh inning with his pitch count into the 90s -- not just because opposing batters are hitting .321 off Wood the third time through the order this season.

He wanted him to have a good experience in his first start with a new team.

"I want him to have a positive outing. He threw the ball good for us and to keep him in the game after he'd done his job to that point at 90-some pitches, he doesn't need to be the guy with an ‘L' on his back," Mattingly said. "That should be more on us. He threw the ball well."

Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who got a hero's welcome returning to Philadelphia, said the Dodgers' lineup was to blame for not staking Wood to more run support, something that plagued him at times in Atlanta. Rollins could have been a conquering hero had his rally-starting hits in the third and fifth innings not been for naught. The Dodgers had a frustrating day at the plate, outhitting the Phillies by one, but losing by four.

"He did everything he needed to do to get the win," Rollins said. "We didn't do our thing behind him."

Behind him -- and off to the side -- is where Wood's second-to-last pitch went. In fact, it wasn't a pitch at all. It slipped out of his hand and floated aimlessly toward the first-base line before anyone could figure out what, exactly, had just happened. The umpires ruled it a balk, which seemed like good fortune until reliever Peralta came in and hung an ill-fated breaking ball to Franco.

"I've seen that on TV a few times, but never been a part of it," Rollins said.

The Dodgers didn't land the star pitchers on the market before last week's trade deadline. In retrospect, it seems as if the Phillies were lining up with Texas all along on Cole Hamels, and the Dodgers, obviously, balked at the Detroit Tigers' asking price for David Price, so he wound up in Toronto.

The Dodgers went for depth moves, adding Wood and Mat Latos to the back of the rotation and Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan to the bullpen. So far, none of the pitchers has had a dominant turn, but none, certainly, has made the three-way trade seem like a bad idea. Latos had the cleanest outing, giving up a run on four hits over six innings. Johnson gave up a home run to Kole Calhoun on Sunday, indirectly forcing Wood to jog down to the bullpen. Avilan pitched Tuesday night and gave up a run on a walk and a hit.

"You always want to leave a good first impression, to give the guys confidence we're going to win a ballgame when you're out there," Wood said. "Hopefully, I did that tonight."