Wells works to earn spot in crowded new outfield
Versatile outfielder welcomes challenge to battle Mariners' new acquisitions
PEORIA, Ariz. -- There are two kinds of numbers games at every Spring Training: the statistical numbers being put up by players trying to make a team, and the number of players trying to squeeze onto each 25-man roster.
Casper Wells is trying not to read too much into either of those digital battles this spring with the Mariners, but it's hard to ignore the obvious. The Mariners have a bunch of outfielders putting up big offensive results early and not all those players will make the club.
Wells helped his cause with a 3-for-4 day with five RBIs on Monday, joining the hit parade on a team where newcomers Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay have made their impact felt in a hurry in the outfield competition.
Add in the fact that Franklin Gutierrez is healthy and hitting extremely well this spring, Michael Saunders has entrenched himself as an everyday player and Carlos Peguero has unleashed impressive early power and, indeed, settling on what likely will be five outfielders for the final 25-man roster will be an interesting task.
Wells' situation is made more difficult by the fact he's now out of Minor League options, meaning he'd have to be exposed to waivers if he's sent down to Triple-A Tacoma. The Mariners already traded Trayvon Robinson and Mike Carp, two other outfielders in that situation, knowing they'd be hard-pressed to make the final cut.
Wells, 28, understands the situation, but says he's not spending time worrying about it.
"Not at all," Wells said. "You have a lot of good players on this team and I think the Mariners are the ones in probably a good position for themselves. They've got good pitching and good outfielding. That's always better than not having enough.
"They're the ones that have to make decisions. I just go out there and play. My goal is to be in the big leagues. I love the Mariners organization and I'd love to be with the Mariners my whole career. I love it here. So whatever happens, happens. It is business. I understand that. I've been traded before, so I understand. I'm not new to it. I'll just go out and take care of my business and let the chips fall where they may."
Wells provides defensive strength that makes him a quality candidate to land a backup role, particularly since he can play center field as well as the corner spots and he has one of the better outfield arms in baseball.
He's had some impressive offensive stretches during his time with Seattle, but after hitting .225 with a .304 on-base percentage in 124 games over two seasons since being acquired from the Tigers in the Doug Fister deal, Wells needs to show he can hit consistently enough to be a factor as well.
Monday's three-hit game -- which included a double and triple -- certainly didn't hurt as he looks to carry over a hitting approach he begin locking on to at the end of last season and worked hard to ingrain over an offseason spent largely at the Mariners training facility in Arizona.
"It was good. It's kind of reassuring," Wells said. "I've tried to stick to a diligent plan and stay disciplined in my routines. I've talked to Raul and a bunch of the veteran guys, and it's all about routines and staying consistent with those outside the field and on. That way they can translate into game situations.
"So it was nice to see some results. I've been hitting some balls hard this spring at people and I feel I've been having a good approach at the plate. So to get that verification that what you're doing is working out well, that can definitely help you relax a little and be confident with the approach you have."
Manager Eric Wedge would love to see that carry over in a consistent fashion.
"It's obvious what kind of athlete he is," Wedge said. "He's worked hard to shorten up his swing and it's been showing so far this spring. I think it will allow him to see the ball better and hit more consistently."
Wells had Lasik eye surgery over the offseason, and while he said that mostly makes life easier than dealing with contacts, it certainly can't hurt his vision at the plate.
Wells feels the more important factor is just feeling strong and confident and not trying to readjust at the first sign of a struggle.
"I'm trying not to get too frustrated with just the beginning and timing issues and stuff," Wells said. "Like last year, maybe when something wasn't working, I'd be quick to try to fix it and try something else. But if you're always trying to change something, you're not going to be consistent. So the biggest thing is just seeing the ball and trying to make solid contact every time. That's all I'm trying to do this spring, just get the barrel on the ball."
On a team leading the Cactus League in home runs in the early going and showing increased offensive potential up and down the lineup, Wells just wants to do his part. He looks around the clubhouse and sees welcome additions everywhere. Even if they are competing for playing time with each other, Wells said the atmosphere has been nothing but positive.
"Definitely there's a different comfort level," Wells said. "There's no kind of tension among any of the players. Everybody gets along. Even the players that came here like Raul and Mike Morse and Kendrys [Morales], my locker mate, they've definitely assimilated right into the team and been comfortable with the setting right from the start.
"It helps everyone with their experience they have from an offensive standpoint. As the offense comes around with our pitching staff we have, I think we're going to be a team to compete with."