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Paul Maholm searches for consistency

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Victor Decolongon

LOS ANGELES -- Paul Maholm said the pitch that Pablo Sandoval hit for a three-run home run that broke Saturday's game open for the Giants was "a cutter that didn't cut."

It was the final blow of a shortened start that saw the left-hander unable to last through the fifth inning, on a day the Dodgers needed a longer start after Hyun-jin Ryu's two-inning outing on Friday.

But Maholm, who has started 243 of his 245 major league games and is by nature a creature of routine, has also been in a different role as a swingman so far this season. He signed a $1.5 million contract with the Dodgers in February that includes up to $5 million in incentives based on a point system that rewards both starts and relief appearances.

He pitched to one batter in one relief appearance in Australia, but his last actual start on a mound against an opponent came on March 13 in spring training.

"I didn't really have a start since before we went to Australia. The toughest thing was not having a normal spring training as a starter, and really not knowing how I was going to be used over the last week to 10 days," Maholm said. "Hopefully I can just get consistent, and prepare like I have my whole career."

When Maholm will pitch next is a mystery. The Dodgers are off Monday and Thursday next week as well as Monday, April 14. The Dodgers could give Ryu extra rest his next two times through the rotation, but would need Josh Beckett's ankle to be healthy enough to return to start on Wednesday against the Tigers.

After those off days, the Dodgers play 13 straight days and have games in 29 out of 30 days.

With Clayton Kershaw out for the foreseeable future, Maholm is likely in the rotation to stay for the short term, even though three off days in the next nine days make the date of his next start unclear. Maholm expects to remain in the rotation for now.

"I'm expecting to [start], yeah," he said. "Until they tell me differently I'm going to prepare to be a starter."

New number

Maholm wore uniform number 46 during his relief appearance in Australia, but today was wearing No. 47. He said he made the switch because he grew up a fan of Tom Glavine.

"Whenever I signed I asked for 47, but [Daniel] Moskos had it in spring," Maholm explained. "As soon as they sent him down I asked for the switch, but with Australia they couldn't get it done quick enough so we shot for the home opener."