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Wolf welcomes challenge with Astros

Wolf welcomes challenge

HOUSTON -- Initially, left-hander Randy Wolf was shocked to learn he had been traded from San Diego to Houston on Tuesday.

Wolf said that after a conversation with Astros general manager Ed Wade, he feels certain Houston still has a chance to compete in the postseason.

"He still believes in the Astros. I think he still thinks there's a shot," Wolf said of Wade. "With a little more than two months left in the season, there's an opportunity there he's trying to take advantage of."

Wolf has known Wade since the Phillies drafted the lefty in the second round of the 1997 First-Year Player Draft. Wade was the GM in Philadelphia at that time, and Wolf played there until 2007.

The Astros attempted to sign Wolf as a free agent during this past offseason, and although Wolf eventually chose San Diego because it was close his home, he said his relationship with Wade made Houston one of his final three choices.

Houston had been set to offer $7 million for the entire 2008 season. The new trade could cost the Astros up to $3.5 million depending on performance-based bonuses.

Wolf's contract pays him $175,000 per start for outings 11-30. He's made 21 so far, which means he will earn $1.4 million from the Astros for his next eight starts. If he pitches 190 innings, he'll make $250,000, and he'll earn another $500,000 if he throws 200 innings.

Wolf is 6-10 this season with a 4.74 ERA in 21 starts, but Wade said the trade was still a good move.

"There are just enough elements there -- when you recognize the fact that he is healthy, that he has a good track record, and when you have a history with him and know his competitive nature," Wade said. "It just made a lot of sense for us, particularly taking into consideration our need and the fact that there aren't going to be a lot of arms out there between now and July 31."

Wolf underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left shoulder in 2007 and had Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery in 2005. Despite the health issues, Wolf was the first Phillies pitcher to win nine straight decisions since Steve Carlton in 1980-81. He was a National League All-Star in 2003, winning a career-best 16 games (16-10), and has thrown seven shutouts in his career.

His numbers, according to Wade, do not show how good a pitcher Wolf is. He's struck out 105 this season, his highest total since 2003, and has already pitched more innings than he did in each of his past three seasons. His 119 2/3 innings is just seven frames away from his 2004 total.

"I think I got into a little bit of a funk there," he said. "But you make adjustments as the season goes on. There were a couple games where I just didn't have the command I wanted to -- I just started walking a lot of guys. The past few starts I started to get better. I kind of feel like I'm on the right track now. I've made some adjustments that feel a lot better."

He has given up 14 home runs this season, but with PETCO Park's spacious field that could be considered high. He's given up six career home runs in 12 starts in San Diego, and has given up five homers in Houston. He's 2-2 all-time at Minute Maid Park, a place he said he likes to pitch.

"I'm going to do everything I can to win every time I go out there, and in between starts I'll work as hard as I can, do as much scouting as possible to go out there and give it my best," Wolf said. "I'm not going to make any promises, but all I can tell you is I'm going to do everything I can."

Krysten Oliphant is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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