Paul Maholm hopes his performance creates a difficult decision for the Dodgers

SCOTTSDALE – The entry point was different than he is accustomed, but for Paul Maholm a clean finish trumped the abnormal starting line in his first Cactus League appearance with the Dodgers.

The 31-year-old left-hander entered Sunday’s game against the San Diego Padres in the third inning – only the second time in his career he wasn’t on the mound to start the game. Not that it affected him considering the two scoreless innings he tossed while surrendering just one hit against seven batters.

“Obviously it’s only two innings but it felt good,” said Maholm, whom the Dodgers signed in early February. “And it felt good putting pitch sequences together and facing the top four hitters, the guys you’ll face in the regular season.”

Maholm is in the running for the first starter’s job, although a strong performance by Josh Beckett against the Padres – not to mention his clean bill of health – likely improved Beckett’s odds of breaking camp as the fifth starter.

And that would suggest Maholm’s future with the Dodgers would be in the bullpen, a role he is not familiar.

But it’s early in spring, and as last year proved when the Dodgers started camp with nine legitimate starters only to scramble throughout the season filling the fourth and fifth starter jobs, projecting definitive pitching roles on March 2nd is an exorcise in folly.

So Maholm will spend the spring preparing for a starting role and hope the esults leave no question where he fits in the Dodgers puzzle.

“My whole thing, since I turned pro, you pitch well and make them make tough decisions,” Maholm said. “I don’t have control over it, all I can do is put my work in stay healthy, pitch well and it will work out.”

Maholm pitched last year for the Atlanta Braves and went 10-11 with a 4.41 ERA over 26 starts and 153 innings. But wrist and elbow injuries forced him to the disabled list, and what looked initially like a very good season when he tossed opened with 26 consecutive scoreless innings and three straight wins slumped to just an average one.

After beginning the year 3-0 Maholm lost four of his next five starts and never established a consistent groove.

“You start off 3-0 with (all) zeros)…there’s only one way to go,” Maholm said. “You’re going to have rough outings and have your rough patch. Unfortunately instead of getting to pitch out of it I was on the D.L for six weeks.”

With the Braves in a playoff race, Maholm hurried back from the D.L in late August- to mixed results.

“Trying to rush out of it to attempt to make the playoff rotation, things didn’t work out,” Maholm said.

He was left off the Braves playoff roster in the Divisional Series against the Dodgers, and ultimately left Atlanta for Los Angeles as a free agent.

Now he’s trying to lock down a job with the Dodgers, although the role is murky at this point. In the meantime, he’ll keep plugging away.

“Like I said, you pitch well and stay healthy things have a way of working out,” Maholm said. “We’ll deal with the other things down the road.”

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