By Tony Jackson
NEW YORK — The Dodgers severed ties with embattled right-hander Brett Tomko on Friday, designating him for assignment to clear a roster spot for newly signed lefty David Wells. But Tomko, who is a miserable 2-11 with a 5.80 ERA this season, wasn’t exactly devastated upon being told of his fate.
“There is a little bit of a sense of relief,” he said. “I love all the guys on this team, and the coaching staff has been great. But it has been a rough year for me in L.A. I haven’t been received well at all there. Hopefully, I will get the chance to go somewhere and get a fresh start for a month and get back to the basics of what made me successful.”
The Dodgers have 10 days to either trade or release Tomko. There is a strong likelihood that a handful of other clubs will have interest in him, but they might wait until the Dodgers release Tomko to sign him. It is believed the Dodgers front office has been trying for weeks to trade him but couldn’t find another club willing to give up much to get him.
The Dodgers still owe Tomko the rest of his $4.1 million salary for this season plus a $1 million buyout of his $4.5 million mutual option for 2008.
“Brett struggled for a good part of the year,” Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said. “At this stage of the season, we had to make a move. We had to give ourselves a chance, even if it’s only 1 percent more of a chance.”
Tomko, who also pitched in San Francisco while Colletti was the Giants’ assistant GM, was optimistic about landing with another club.
“Ned and I have a pretty tight relationship,” Tomko said. “I don’t think there will ever be any hard feelings. I hope he will take care of me out of respect and not let me sit around and rot without a chance to go pitch.”
Wells rusty: Wells threw a light side session, saying later it was the first time he had thrown off a mound since being designated for assignment by San Diego on Aug. 9. He will make his Dodgers debut on Sunday night against the New York Mets, his first start since Aug. 6, and it isn’t clear how deep into that game he will be able to go.
“I’ll just pitch my heart out until they take me out, I guess,” Wells said. “Every starter would love to go nine innings, but this being my first start back, I don’t know what is going to happen. I’ll just give it my all and hope for the best.”
Dodgers manager Grady Little didn’t say what he expects of Wells.
“The only thing I know about David Wells is that every time he goes out there, he is going to give it everything he has,” Little said. “I have seen that for a few years, and he is no different right now. How many (pitches) that is, I can’t answer that.”
The Dodgers are paying Wells a base salary of only about $80,000, a prorated share of the major-league minimum $380,000, with the Padres picking up the rest of his $1 million salary for the season. His agreement with the Dodgers also includes incentives based on games started that could result in the Dodgers paying him a total of $800,000 if he doesn’t miss a start the rest of this season. The detailed breakdown of those incentives isn’t clear.
Although Wells said he hopes to be pitching somewhere next year, he spent the past week believing his career was over, and he still believes it probably will be when the season ends.
“It kind of looks that way, but I have been lying … for a long time saying I was going to retire,” Wells said. “I’ll just see what happens next spring, if I can get an invitation early enough that I can get ready for another season.
“I might not look sexy, but I feel sexy.”