View from Studio 3: Wolf aiming for one final ride
Six degrees outside. Snow flurries falling. Final day of February. The brutal winter has no end. It seems totally reasonable to ask the question, "Will it ever be warm again?"
Thousands of miles away, folks enjoying the Cactus League really don't care about the Polar Vortex. They're tanner than George Hamilton and enjoying Arizona baseball while asking questions of their own.
The obvious ones involve Mike Trout's contract negotiations, Albert Pujols's health and Robinson Cano's leadership ability. But in Peoria, Ariz., there's another question yet to be answered, and it has to do with one of the most likable, approachable and longest-tenured players in the game: Randy Wolf. The 14-year veteran is trying to do something few have done before: successfully return to action after undergoing a second reconstructive elbow surgery.
"I just thought I'll work as hard as I can possibly work," Wolf said. "Work harder than I've ever worked in my life, and that way I can always look back with no regrets."
The left-hander has been astounded by how well things have gone during rehab since he had surgery in 2012. So well, in fact, that Wolf drew interest and non-roster offers from many teams after auditioning late in '13. He waited for the best opportunity. He got one with Seattle. Wolf said the Mariners were the most persistent and most genuine in their interest.
Wolf is taking the "micro" approach in an attempt to pitch in the Majors for the first time since 2012 -- looking to adhere to his rehab and throwing program each day. Nothing more, nothing less. Worrying about making the team early in camp is the equivalent, Wolf said, "to worrying about the finish line with your first stride in a race."
"If I take care of each day, then the final day will take care of itself."
Wolf has been drawing on his first experience of undergoing Tommy John surgery from nearly a decade ago to help him get through this rehabilitation process. He points out that it's important to be slower, more cautious and more methodical -- in large part because of his age. The hurdles and mini milestones remain the same. Most of them have to do with juggling physical capabilities and emotional obstacles. "Letting it go" when delivering a pitch is a big part of taking the next step. With two batting-practice sessions under his belt, all is going well.
Wolf will attempt to clear his next major hurdle when he pitches on Sunday in Cactus League action vs. the Indians.
Despite being 37, Wolf looks like a kid. He's fit, trim and, while acknowledging the cliche, said he's in the best shape of his career.
"You can't go out and eat Taco Bell all the time and think your metabolism is naturally going to burn it," he said.
With age comes better dietary choices, along with wisdom. But age doesn't factor into Wolf's mind when he's on the field. He's that confident in his fitness and preparedness.
"Physically, I know I can do anything or more than they can," Wolf said. "I know that over the past 14 months, I've pushed harder than I've ever pushed myself.
"As you get older, you have to do a little bit more than you did when you were 25."
No one can defy Father Time, but getting older is somewhat of a choice. But it's a different story when shooting the bull with younger teammates. There's no way to avoid the divide between veterans and rookies.
"There's a kid [in camp] who had absolutely no idea what the show 'Family Ties' was," Wolf said. "I was realizing there is a total generation gap with these kids."
It's history repeating itself. Back in the late '90s when Wolf showed up in Clearwater, Fla., as a member of the Phillies, he was rubbing elbows with the likes of Curt Schilling, Rico Brogna and Gregg Jefferies. In 2014, Wolf is now that guy, but he has no desire to plan his retirement just yet.
Wolf's focus is singular -- his work at Mariners camp.
"The day that I throw my last pitch is the day that I hone in and focus in on the next chapter in my life," he said. "And I'll give it everything I possibly have to be the best that I can possibly be at that. But until that day comes, I want to keep that focus I'm what I'm doing now."
Matt Yallof is the co-host of The Rundown on MLB Network from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.