Wolf knows road back is tougher this time

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Randy Wolf admits this time is different. The veteran southpaw is coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery for the second time in his career, but this time there are far more questions as he returns at age 37.

Wolf answered the first of those in a positive way Sunday as he made his Mariners debut with two scoreless innings in Seattle's 6-3 Cactus League loss to the Indians, allowing one single and a walk with one strikeout in his first game action since Sept. 22, 2012, when he was with the Orioles.

"It is different because sometimes perception is reality," Wolf said. "After a first Tommy John, everybody is like, 'Well, he just had Tommy John, he'll be back in 12 or 13 months. No problem.' When you have two, even when you're in your 30s -- mid-30s, upper-mid-30s -- you get a lot of naysayers. Not that they're doing it maliciously, but they just don't see it possible.

"There's a lot more doubt this time around," he said. "The doubt that has to be eliminated is in my mind. So you have moments like these that are very self-gratifying."

Wolf and Scott Baker are veterans trying to crack Seattle's rotation as non-roster invitees on Minor League deals and both made solid first impressions in their first outings.

"I felt like with everybody being healthy, I still had an opportunity and I shouldn't gain by anybody else's misfortune," said Wolf, a 2003 All-Star who has a 132-117 record and 4.20 ERA over his lengthy career. "I feel when I'm healthy, I'm an average to above-average Major League pitcher. And obviously when I'm not healthy, I've been horrible. And I admit that.

"I really feel the way I've prepared over the past 15 months, if this ligament holds up, I can pitch in the big leagues and really help a team. So I don't want anybody to go down on this team. When I signed with the Seattle Mariners, even as a non-roster guy, I want what's best for the organization. And the best for this organization doesn't happen when guys go down."

Wolf said he threw all his pitches, working mostly on keeping his fastball down and adding in a new splitter he feels will be helpful. And Wolf could help the Mariners if he returns to the pitcher who threw 212 or more innings in three straight years with the Dodgers and Brewers from 2009-11 and posted a 37-29 record and 3.70 ERA in that span before his elbow started acting up again.

"I've got a long way to go," Wolf said, "but it was a good first step."

Greg Johns is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB as well as his Mariners Musings blog. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.