Wells optimistic about starting anew with Angels
TEMPE, Ariz. -- A fresh start beckons, and so do a brand-new set of postseason possibilities for Vernon Wells, the new left fielder of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Wells, 32, spent his entire career as a center fielder with the Toronto Blue Jays before being traded to the Angels in January. It was a long and, for the most part, highly productive stay in Toronto. Wells, a three-time All-Star and three-time Gold Glove winner, is the American League's all-time leader in fielding percentage (.993) among outfielders who have played at least 1,000 games.
The difficult part about leaving the Blue Jays was just that, leaving the Blue Jays. Coming to the Angels has been a treat for Wells, on several levels. This has become a destination franchise for Major Leaguers.
"Whenever you look around the Major Leagues, and for me, it was obviously more American League than National League, you think: 'What would it be like to play there?'" Wells said Wednesday at Tempe Diablo Stadium. "When you play in Anaheim, the weather's always beautiful, the stands are always packed, the team is always good. It's one of those few places where I thought it would be neat to play there.
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"But coming into this past offseason," Wells added with a smile, "I didn't think I'd be wearing red in March."
The departure from Toronto wasn't easy.
"The biggest thing for me was saying goodbye to guys that I'd pretty much grown up with," Wells said. "That was the hard part for me, because Toronto was my home and will always be my second home. I loved my time there and I look forward to getting back there and seeing the boys. I've got two countries under my belt. Not too many people have that."
Wells never reached the postseason with Toronto. Life was uphill for the Blue Jays, in the same division as the Yankees and the Red Sox, not to mention the Rays. But playing in the intense and competitive atmosphere of the AL East was still an experience worth having for a competitor.
"There were two organizations -- three, when you can throw Tampa Bay in there -- you want to get to that level, you want to beat those guys," Wells said. "It's a lot easier said than done, obviously. But that's your measuring stick of what kind of organization you are, and how good of a team you are. For a competitor you wouldn't trade it for the world, because you get to play in a couple of the best environments in all of baseball. Whether you're at home or on the road, when you play Boston or you play New York, there's a following. And you want that as a player. And you want to be able to take your organization to where you have that no matter where you are."
Wells is now in what should be a beneficial situation for him and the Angels. The Halos have won five division titles in the last seven seasons. The possibility of reaching the postseason is evident.
The Angels needed more middle-of-the-order run production. Wells returned to something resembling his best form last year, posting a 31-homer season with a .515 slugging percentage. The Angels were sufficiently convinced of Wells' ability that they were willing to pick up the four years and $86 million remaining on his seven-year contract.
Wells should help the Angels' run production. He should make the adjustment to left and be a solid defender. And as an unassuming fellow with a nice, droll wit, he should fit right in with this group.
"Things are run a little differently over here," Wells said. "[Manager] Mike Scioscia's regimen is a well-run, fine-tuned, well-oiled machine. He's been doing it for years. From the morning meetings to our schedule throughout the day, it's something that's been established over the years. In Toronto we had a couple of different managers and obviously this year is a new year for them, bringing in John Farrell [as manager]. It's two different organizations at two different times. This team is built to win right now, and I think Toronto is built to win in the very near future."
Here in Spring Training, Wells lockers in the immediate vicinity of Torii Hunter, a dominant and entertaining personality in any setting.
"I get to laugh a lot," Wells said. "You never know what's going to come out of his mouth. We have a blast. I think that's one of the things in the clubhouse -- starting with Scioscia, we have a good time in here.
"It's good to get to know a whole different organization, play with different guys. It's fun to have this kind of change in the middle of your career, and to know that you're coming to an organization like this. You have a trade and you want to make sure that if something does happen, you put yourself in a good situation. This is a good situation."
This should be a good situation, not only for Vernon Wells, but for his new employers, as well.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.