SAN DIEGO -- Of the three displaced Dodgers starting pitchers, management concluded early on that Chris Capuano would best handle a move to the bullpen, and so far he has.
It was only one appearance Tuesday, but Capuano was perfect in an inning on nine days of rest in what was his regular-season debut. He acknowledged that his mental approach is just as important to handling the new role as physical demands like quick warmups and unpredictable usage.
"I don't like wasting mental energy," he said. "It takes a lot for me to plan each day to handle this role, to stay sharp and strong, so when I do get the opportunity, I can perform. So there's where my focus is."
Thus Capuano's focus isn't on the apparent insult of being demoted after a 12-win season as a starter. With free agency on the horizon, he hasn't asked for a trade or brooded in the clubhouse. He's been a team player.
"I face what I can control," he said. "I want to be a good teammate, first and foremost. For me, if I can't directly control something, I put it out of my mind and focus on what I can control. I understand the situation right now. I love my team and my teammates. The guys in the rotation are phenomenal. This is where I fit right now."
But as Capuano made the walk down the steps from the new elevated bullpen in left-center at Petco Park to the center-field entrance when he was called on Tuesday, he realized how his role has changed.
"There's a long walk down those stairs in your spikes, and you go slow and that was foreign, a strange feeling in a lot of ways," he said. "But as soon as they opened the gate and I stepped on the field, for me that's the place where I want to be. I was back in a comfort zone.
"When the phone rang and they said it was me, there was that instant adrenaline, and that helps get you warmed up. The bullpen has helped me lock in my focus, even though it's only two appearances [nine days earlier in the Freeway Series]. It forces you to get locked in fast."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.