Stephen Fife's most recent stay with the Dodgers will likely be his shortest, but he picked up the most precious of souvenirs on Monday night. Making a spot start in place of the triceps-addled Chris Capuano, Fife earned the his first major league win in the Dodgers' 2-1 victory over the Padres in the series opener at Dodger Stadium.
"After seven tries I finally got one, after a couple of close calls last year," Fife said after the game. "It's pretty awesome."
Fife lasted 5⅓ innings and allowed just one run on Monday night. He walked two and struck out five, a marked improvement over his other big league start this season, when he failed to get out of the fifth inning in a no-decision in Baltimore on Apr. 21.
"I was pretty uncomfortable in Baltimore. My thought process wasn't so much about making the quality the pitch but how am I going to get my arm up to throw to get the ball there. It was a lot different physical feeling for me today," Fife said. "Tonight was just about making quality pitches more often than not."
Fife hit the disabled list a few days after that Baltimore start with right shoulder bursitis, and he spent the better part of a month on the proverbial shelf. He was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque on Thursday, the same day he was activated from the disabled list, but called back up Monday for this start.
"He threw 70 his last outing and he's been off with the shoulder. And 70 in A-ball isn't the same as getting big league hitters out," said manager Don Mattingly. "We kind of felt like he hit the wall there."
Those 70 pitches came last Tuesday with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga in a rehab start. Fife felt he might have been able to pitch beyond his 76 pitches on Monday, but understood the decision by Mattingly.
"I'm not going to fault Donnie. My legs were starting to get a little heavy and the ball was starting to come up a bit," Fife said. "I think there was probably more in the tank, but in that situation after a couple of hits, that's just the way it goes."
What's next for Fife is likely a return ticket to Triple-A Albuquerque on Tuesday, as the Dodgers need a corresponding roster move to activate shortstop Hanley Ramirez from the disabled list. Capuano's MRI results weren't immediately known or revealed after the game Monday, but the general thought is that barring something unforeseen Capuano will be able to make his start on Saturday.
But for Fife, on the second straight day the Dodgers needed a spot start from Triple-A, the results were impressive.
"We felt like a guy coming up, off a shoulder thing, with one rehab start, to get us that far we felt like he did his job," Mattingly said.