Wolf Climbs Quickly In Phillies' System The Lefthander Pitched For Batavia Last Year And For Reading This Spring. Now He's At Scranton.

Posted: May 01, 1998

Curt Schilling recently insinuated that the scarcity of pitching prospects in the Phillies' minor-league system had caused some of the younger members of the team's starting rotation to become complacent.

``We're not the Braves with 10 or 12 pitching prospects stacked up in the minors,'' Schilling said. ``Maybe some guys don't feel any pressure to keep their jobs.''

Less than two weeks after Schilling's comments, here comes Randy Wolf.

No, Wolf won't be pitching for the Phils during their 10-game homestand, which begins tonight against the Houston Astros. But his prominent place in the club's future was restated yesterday when the Phillies announced that the 21-year-old lefthander had been promoted to triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Wolf's graduation to the threshold of the majors comes after just 11 professional starts. After being drafted in the second round out of Pepperdine and given a $356,000 signing bonus, Wolf went 4-0 with a 1.58 earned run average and 53 strikeouts in 40 innings at single-A Batavia last summer.

This spring, after wowing everyone in minor-league camp, Wolf was pushed to double-A Reading. Obviously, it was the right move. In four starts, he went 2-0 with a 1.44 ERA. He struck out 33 and walked only four in 25 innings.

``Del and his guys feel this kid is ready,'' said general manager Ed Wade, referring to minor-league director Del Unser. ``His performance indicates he's ready for the challenge. He's mature enough that even if he has a few bumps in the road, it won't set him back.''

From his home in upstate New York, former Phillies pitching coach Johnny Podres wasn't surprised to hear that Wolf had been moved up. Podres now works with Phillies minor-leaguers. He's wild about Wolf.

``I just like the way he goes about his business on the mound,'' Podres said. ``He's a very polished kid, already. He's from California, so he's done a lot of pitching, and it shows.''

Podres said Wolf's stuff isn't off the charts.

``His fastball isn't much more than average, but I like the sound it puts in that mitt,'' he said. ``He's got all the pitches - change-up, fastball. And the best thing is he throws strikes. If I was the Phillies' pitching coach, I would have been after him in spring training. It looks like he can pitch.''

Wade said talk of Wolf being in Philadelphia this season is premature.

``He may be in Scranton a long time,'' Wade said. ``He shouldn't plan on living out of a suitcase. We need to let him progress.''

Wolf's promotion is not designed to motivate Garrett Stephenson or Matt Beech, the Phillies' No. 4 and 5 starters, both of whom have ERAs close to 8. But if that turns out to be a windfall effect, then the Phils won't argue.

``I hope the young guys we have realize what kind of opportunity they're getting and take advantage of it,'' Wade said. ``I don't think they have to be looking over their shoulders to move forward. I don't want to spend the whole season making a bunch of pitching moves. So, at this point, we'll err on the side of patience.''

Wade conceded that there are options at Scranton. And he wasn't talking about Wolf. The GM has been impressed with recent reports on Carlton Loewer, the club's top pick in the 1994 draft.

``He's not a far reach,'' Wade said. ``There's no question he'll be in our rotation later this year or next year. He's got all the elements to be a successful big-league pitcher. We'd like to be patient with him, but at some point, if it makes sense, we'll accelerate him.''

Wolf's quick advancement is a case in point of how quickly a talented player can climb baseball's ladder.

``There's no question that when you talk about a player with raw ability, he can move fast,'' Wade said. ``If these types of players get out there and start refining their skills, they have a chance to get on a fast track. But first they have to get on the track.''

Wonder whom Wade was referring to.

Early improvement. After losing the season opener March 31, the Phillies went 12-12 in the month of April. Last April, they were 8-16.

``We come to the park with a chance to win each day,'' Schilling said. ``You didn't feel that much last year.

``I go home miserable a lot less often this year. As a starting pitcher, it's tough to go out there and stop losing streaks all the time. I haven't had to do that, and I hope I won't.''

Even though this team finished last in the National League the last two years, Schilling said it's not ridiculous to think that the club, which has lost seven one-run games, could challenge for a wild-card spot.

``We're a game under .500 so far, and we could easily be five or six over,'' he said. ``There's no doubt that if we can stay around .500 on Aug. 1, we can be in the hunt. We need to give [management] a reason to go out and get someone before the trading deadline. I'm not sure who or what, but I know no team is completely full.''

Extra bases. Mitch Williams will be the guest public-address announcer for tonight's game, filling in for Dan Baker. . . . Internet aficionados can chat with Doug Glanville from 3 to 3:30 p.m. tomorrow at www.phillies.com.

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