Wells trying to latch on in Jays bullpen
Rainout spoils what was a nice outing from right-hander
TAMPA, Fla. -- Randy Wells is hoping he hasn't seen the last of the Yankees this season. In a perfect world, the Blue Jays pitcher would be with Toronto in Yankee Stadium on Opening Day, coming out of the bullpen for his big league debut in the Bronx.
In order for that to happen, Wells needs to make Toronto's roster. That's one reason he was disappointed that his outing against New York on Saturday afternoon was cut short due to rain. Wells was hoping to use the rare start to help convince the Blue Jays that he can be a valuable part of their relief corps.
"I was excited. I was looking forward to the challenge," said Wells, who was acquired by the Blue Jays during the Rule 5 Draft in December. "I wanted to see how I stacked up against some of those hitters. I never had the opportunity, and I took it as a personal challenge just to see how good I really am."
Before the showers came pouring down and the tarp was hurried out to cover the diamond at Legends Field, Wells did manage to complete five confrontations with New York batters. The 25-year-old right-hander recorded four outs, walked one and had Yankees catcher Jorge Posada at the plate with a 2-1 count in the second inning when the game was stopped.
In the first inning, Wells induced a groundout off the bat of New York's Johnny Damon, forced Derek Jeter to fly out, walked Bobby Abreu and ended the frame with a fielder's choice groundout by Alex Rodriguez. In the second, Yankees first baseman Jason Giambi sent one of Wells' pitches to left for another flyout.
"You'd like to face them again in the big leagues," Wells said with a smile. "But it's one of those things, if I never make it and my career ends, I can always say I faced probably one of the best hitters in baseball today in Alex Rodriguez and came away pretty successful."
The results that Wells accomplished on Saturday won't show up in the Spring Training statistics, because the game wasn't official since it was canceled. Even so, Wells' performance was a continuation of his strong showing this spring, in which he's allowed no runs on four hits in six innings over seven appearances -- not including Saturday.
"He looked good," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "We're going to run him out there as long as we can. He's done good -- he really has. He's had a good spring."
One of the reasons Wells said he's having such success is the addition of a two-seam sinking fastball to his pitch repertoire -- an offering Toronto pitching coach Brad Arnsberg has helped the pitcher hone this spring. Wells, who was converted from being a catcher during the 2003 season in the Cubs' farm system, relied heavily on a four-seam fastball earlier in his professional career, leading to mixed results.
"That's been a big part of the puzzle for me to be successful," said Wells, referring to the new pitch. "I've always been a four-seam straight fastball kind of guy. When I'm not throwing strikes, I've got to come in with that and I got hit around a little bit. I gave up a lot of hits. Now that I've got that sinker going, it gives me ... added confidence."
Last season with Triple-A Iowa, Wells went 5-6 with a 4.52 ERA, 101 strikeouts, 41 walks and 100 hits allowed in 95 2/3 innings over 40 games, including nine starts. Over his Minor League career, the righty has posted a 30-22 win-loss record with a 3.73 ERA in 152 games, including 58 starts.
If Wells breaks camp with the Blue Jays, he'd fill a middle-relief role with the club. He started on Saturday, because right-hander starter Dustin McGowan pitched in a Minor League game instead of against the Yankees -- McGowan's first opponent in the regular season. Gibbons said Wells would likely pitch again for Toronto on Monday.
There are a handful of pitchers vying for one of the few vacancies in Toronto's bullpen, so it's not a given that he'll make the roster. Since the Jays acquired Wells from the Cubs as a Rule 5 selection, Toronto would be required to offer him back to Chicago for $25,000 if he doesn't make the Opening Day roster.
Wells is hoping that step doesn't come.
"If they decide to take me up north, great." Wells said. "If not, it didn't work out and you've got to move forward from there. I would love to go north with this team."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.