LOS ANGELES (AP) - David Wells knows his baseball career is almost over.
In fact, Wells thought he was finished last month when the San Diego Padres let him go.
``Yeah, absolutely,'' the 44-year-old left-hander recalled. ``I sat home for three weeks, waited for a phone call. I went surfing, did the family thing, hung out with my sons. That's what you do, prepare for life after baseball, prepare for hunting season.''
Although Wells believed he could still get the job done, he knew why the phone didn't ring right away - he had an 0-3 record with a 14.33 ERA in his final four starts with the Padres, leaving him 5-8 with a 5.54 ERA in his 21st big-league season.
Finally, the pitching-desperate Los Angeles Dodgers paid a call, and Wells has provided the spark they needed on and off the field to remain in contention for a playoff berth.
``He's a big-game guy who's in the middle of something,'' pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said of Wells, 3-0 with a 3.91 ERA in four starts with the Dodgers. ``He's got new life, new energy. He's a gritty veteran who's been there before.
``Our team needed somebody who we felt could go out there and give us a chance to win with. We needed new fire. And he's brought a looseness with him. His style is somewhat contagious. We can be a quiet team, and he's got some personality.''
And Wells has also had success in the heat of a pennant race, as evidenced by his 39-25 lifetime record in September.
``Extra weight and a sense of humor,'' teammate Nomar Garciaparra replied with a smile when asked what the player known as Boomer has brought to the Dodgers. ``I've played against him for so long - he's such a competitor. And he's a great guy to have around the clubhouse. He just brings his own personality, which we all love and embrace.''
Wells, scheduled to make his next start Tuesday in the nightcap of a doubleheader at Colorado, has been especially good in his last two outings, taking a perfect game into the sixth inning of a 6-2 win at San Francisco, and giving up four hits and three runs in six innings in a 6-3 victory over the Padres.
``They gave up on me, I didn't give up on myself,'' he said after blanking the Padres on one hit during the first five innings before tiring in the sixth.
Wells also had the first multihit game of his career, and against 345-game winner Greg Maddux no less. The last player older than Wells to have his first career multihit game was Hall of Fame pitcher Satchel Paige, who was 45 when he did it in 1952, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
``I'll keep a little clipping. I'll clip it out,'' Wells said with a smile, referring to the box score.
Wells said he expected to be successful with the Dodgers, and believes he would have turned things around in San Diego had he stayed there.
``I feel I'm pretty good at what I do,'' he said. ``I've been consistent for a long time. I'm doing at 44 what I did at 24. I've pretty much defied the odds of a lot of people.''
Wells made his major league debut with Toronto in 1987. He has had two tours of duty with the Blue Jays, Yankees and Padres, and one each with the Reds, Orioles, White Sox, Red Sox and Dodgers.
``He's got a lot of drive left and he's trying to get something accomplished,'' Dodgers manager Grady Little said. ``He's done a good job for us.''
Little has such faith in Wells that he's planning to bring him back Saturday on three days' rest at Arizona.
``That's the plan right now,'' Little said. ``We'll see how things go Tuesday.''
Wells, who has a lifetime record of 238-156, said what keeps him going is a love of the game.
``It's the only thing I know,'' he said. ``It's been my job for 25 years. The game is so great, man. It's awesome. It's tough to walk away from. I've tried it a couple times. It's going to be tough to walk away from. That day is going to come.''
Wells hopes it doesn't come any time soon.
``Sure, if my body feels good enough,'' he said when asked about playing next year. ``Life throws you obstacles all the time. I'm losing velocity every year.''
Wells' love of baseball clearly isn't the only thing that motivates him.
``I've had so much negativity, negative feedback. `You're not worthy of playing this game. You're too fat for this game. You're finished, you're washed up,''' he said. ``From everywhere. I just sit back and laugh. I will have the last laugh. Here I am, in a pennant race.''
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