Randy Choate had a pretty typical day on Wednesday in many ways. In the seventh inning he came in to face Yonder Alonso, a left-handed batter, with a runner on base. Choate struck out Alonso to end the inning, and that was the only batter he faced. In 19 of his 35 games as a Dodger, Choate has faced just one batter.
But what was different about Wednesday was that Choate hadn't pitched in four days, his longest stretch of inactivity since Aug. 5. The two games Choate didn't pitch during that stretch (Sunday in Cincinnati, Tuesday in San Diego) represented the first time he went more than two games without an appearance in September.
"I've just been fortunate with a very resilient arm, one that's able to bounce back. Being able to face one hitter makes it a little easier, too," Choate said. "Honestly for me, I'd have to get to a 30-plus pitch count to not be able to pitch the next day, and quite frankly that just doesn't happen."
Choate has held lefties to a .175/.306/.275 (7-for-40) line since joining the Dodgers, and on the season has a 3.05 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 38 1/3 innings. He leads the majors with 17 games pitched in September, and has appeared in 35 of 57 games since he was acquired from the Marlins on July 25. That would be a 96-game pace over a full season. The 37-year old likes being used nearly every day, and has learned to prepare in his 12 years in the big leagues.
"The longer you play the more you figure out how much you need to get warm. When I was younger I would throw a lot more trying to get warm, then I would go out and throw two pitches but I threw 40 in the pen," he said. "Now I try to limit my pitches down there and just get to where my arm is loose, then go out and try to make them put the ball in play rather than strikeout everybody."
There have only been nine seasons of a pitcher throwing 90 games in a season, and six of those seasons were split evenly between Mike Marshall and Kent Tekulve. Choate has pitched in 79 games this season, six shy of his career high set in 2010. But he has loftier goals.
"Personally my goal going into every year is 90 games and 45 innings. My ultimate goal would someday to approach Mike Marshall's record, but I know that's not really doable," Choate said. "That's a lot of games, and it just doesn't happen that much these days. I think my arm can handle the workload."
Marshall's record is 106 games pitched in 1974, the season he threw an absurd 208 1/3 innings in relief for the Dodgers and won the National League Cy Young Award. Marshall also set a record that season of pitching in 13 straight games, one that Choate nearly approached.
He pitched in seven straight games through the end of the series with the Cardinals on Sept. 16, but the rain postponement two days later in Washington D.C. foiled his plans. Choate appeared in only one of the two games of the Dodgers' doubleheader on Sept. 19, which began a streak of four straight appearances. Had the opening game against the Nationals been played as planned, Choate likely would have had 12 straight games heading into the Sunday finale in Cincinnati.
Choate had to settle for pitching in 15 games in a 17-game stretch for the Dodgers, a stretch he said has helped him.
"My arm feels better than when I first got here. I'm never going to be a guy that throws 90+. I think it really helps my two-seam fastball, and keeps me sharp mentally and physically," Choate said. "With (my role) being so specific, it makes it a little easier mentally because you can start getting ready when that guy comes up."
Chris Capuano gets the start for the Dodgers in their series finale against the Padres, but it's a safe bet that Choate will end up pitching at some point Thursday night.
Game Time: 7:05 p.m.