"Even when they say that the surgery went well ... there is still the rehab process to make sure you do the right things, make sure you do not go too fast, all very important things," Wolf said Tuesday. "Of course there's a little question over your head."
Maybe not any longer, though, as the left-hander not only picked up his first victory with the Padres but did so convincingly, taming the Colorado Rockies for 6 2/3 no-hit innings in a 6-0 victory by the Padres before a crowd of 24,439 at PETCO Park.
Wolf (1-0), who hadn't won a game since last June 28 when he was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, struck out nine with a fastball that gained more height than velocity in the strike zone and an assortment of breaking pitches the Rockies could not hit.
Wolf's bid for a no-hitter officially ended with two outs in the seventh inning, when Brad Hawpe lined a single up the middle, though as manager Bud Black would say afterward that Wolf, who threw 112 pitches thanks in large part to the strikeouts and his four walks, was finished after the inning anyway.
"I don't think the decision was mine," Wolf said of whether he wanted to remain in the game. "Bud made a good point, it's a long year."
Maybe not for the Padres when it comes to the fourth spot in their rotation, as they used several pitchers in that spot a year ago, especially after the team released veteran David Wells in August.
But Wolf looks it a nice fit behind Jake Peavy, Chris Young and Greg Maddux, even if the Rockies (5-8) weren't quite willing to gush over his performance.
"Not to take anything away from him -- he made his pitches -- but the next time we face him I think we'll have a better game plan of how to face him," said Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday, who struck out twice against Wolf.
"The first time you face a guy in a long time, you're not going to feel real comfortable as far as what his pitches are doing and how he's doing it."
Wolf had pitched well in each of his first two starts for the Padres, allowing three runs in 12 innings, though he was left with a no-decision in each start because the offense didn't score more than three runs in each outing.
So that the Padres had all of three hits over the first four innings and few opportunities to score was probably not too surprising, especially considering the pitcher they were facing in 23-year-old Ubaldo Jimenez.
Jimenez, who was clocked at 98 mph on several occasions Tuesday with a nasty slider to boot, looked more refined than when the Padres last saw him on Aug. 15 of last season when he allowed one hit over six innings with nine strikeouts.
In fact, Jimenez was cruising along entering the fifth inning. He had thrown 54 pitches to that point with three strikeouts and a double-play ball in the third inning. There wasn't a whole lot of solid contact, either, though that changed in the fifth inning.
Jimenez walked Khalil Greene to start the inning before striking out Scott Hairston. Josh Bard then walked to bring up Wolf. And Wolf responded -- sort of.
Wolf laid a bunt down the third-base line that Jimenez fielded cleanly, though he rushed his throw to first base. The throw barely pulled second baseman Jayson Nix off the bag, just enough so that Wolf was safe. That loaded the bases for Brian Giles.
"It was great to get one fair ... he [Jimenez] was throwing 108," Wolf quipped.
Seeing that Jimenez was in a bind, Giles jumped all over a 2-0 fastball, lining it midway up the scoreboard in right field to score two runs. Three batters later, Kevin Kouzmanoff lined a two-run double of his own inside the first-base bag to make it 4-0.
Jim Edmonds followed with another two-run double to culminate a nine-pitch at-bat, as the Padres increased their lead to 6-0. That was enough for Jimenez, who tossed 48 pitches in the inning alone, or six fewer than he had through the first four innings.
"You try to sit on a pitch and drive it anytime you have runners in scoring position," said Giles, who missed the last two games with a mild strain of his left oblique. "We made [Jimenez] work. That was a nice inning for us."
And, to be sure, a nice cushion for Wolf, who had at least one strikeout in each of his first six innings. He walked three batters over the first two innings but settled down thereafter and impressed his manager in the process.
"He had to work a little hard those first three innings," Black said. "He had a good, live fastball tonight at the top of the strike zone, mixed in a few hooks and a few changeups. That's a pretty good lineup.
"Part of Randy's strength as a pitcher is he pitches high, low, in and out. He's not a guy who has to pitch down in the strike zone."
No, he's just a guy who needs to pitch. Wolf admitted last weekend in his hometown of Los Angeles that he was somewhat remorseful that he wasn't healthy in the second half of the season. He made his last start on July 3. Two months and two days later, he had surgery to clean up minor fraying of the labrum in his shoulder.
The Dodgers opted to buy him out of his option for this season, rendering him a free agent. The Padres swooped in and signed the 31-year-old to a one-year deal that, as for early returns, looks to be a smart move.
"It feels great," Wolf said afterwards. "When you throw well, you're doing your job."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less