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Healthy Wade wants bullpen job back

Healthy Wade wants bullpen job back

PHOENIX -- One of last year's disappointments for the Dodgers was the recurring pain in the shoulder of Cory Wade, who pretty much came out of nowhere in 2008 as a workhorse middle and setup reliever.

Wade allowed only 51 hits in 71 innings over 55 appearances with a 2.27 ERA in 2008, starting the season in Double-A and ending it in the National League Championship Series.

He made the Opening Day roster last year, but battled those shoulder problems all season and faded from the scene. His bullpen role was assumed by another relative unknown, Ronald Belisario, who had a similarly successful rookie season.

With Belisario stuck in Venezuelan visa limbo, general manager Ned Colletti virtually proclaimed the job up for grabs by repeatedly saying he has plenty of other capable pitchers in camp.

Wade is looking once again to prove he's one of them. He said he's now healthy enough to do it.

"This is the best I've felt since '08," the 26-year-old right-hander said. "I felt all right last year, but nowhere near what I needed to be. My shoulder is healthy; my back is strong. I look forward to this year, and I'm ready to show I'm capable of pitching."

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Wade showed his resilience in 2008 and was ultimately promoted to set up for Jonathan Broxton after closer Takashi Saito's elbow injury. But a stint on the disabled list in August was a sign of shoulder problems to come.

He was put on the disabled list twice last season with shoulder irritation. In August, he was sent to Triple-A, where he stayed, without even a September recall because Wade didn't pitch any better at Albuquerque than he did for the Dodgers. His Triple-A ERA of 6.75 topped his Major League ERA of 5.53.

"I didn't deserve it," he said of the callup that never came. "I didn't pitch like I was supposed to. I didn't pitch bad, but didn't pitch good, and I don't want it to happen again. I learned a lot about myself. I'm not worried about my shoulder this year."

Wade said he spent the offseason building strength in his back, as well as his shoulder.

"I'm in better shape than the last two years," he said. "I took a different approach in my workouts and really focused on my core. The back muscles support the shoulder muscles. I have to keep my back where it needs to be to keep my shoulder strong."

Wade brushed off the suggestion that middle relievers get abused and are particularly vulnerable to injuries of overuse.

"It really is an honor when a Hall of Fame manager has confidence to give the ball to a rookie," he said. "It's my own fault I ended up breaking down. I wasn't as strong as I should have been. I wasn't really prepared for the role.

"I did what I could do. As a first-year guy, you think you can handle it. I'd be happy with the role again. I'd do anything to help the club win. Last year was a big-time learning experience for me."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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