This is the way Vernon Wells told the story of being traded to the Yankees”
“(The Angels) called me in the office and said, ‘We have a deal in place; it’s just a matter of your approval,’” Wells said. “Then they told me the team, and I tried not to smile too big in the office. … I remember the first time I played the Triple-A Yankees when I was 20 years old and Strawberry was on that team. It was the first time that I actually got goose bumps playing against another team. From that day, I’ve quietly been a Yankees fan. Obviously not when we played against the Yankees, but every time or any time the Yankees were in the playoffs and I was sitting at home, I was cheering for the Yankees. This is somewhat of a dream come true.”
It was the kind of story that — in a lot of circumstances — would win over even the most cynical fan base, but Wells’ good-guy reputation is well known, and the Yankees don’t necessarily need another fan in the clubhouse. What they need is a bat, and the past few years, Wells hasn’t been much of a bat.
“Even my last year in Toronto, I think I hit 30 homers, but I still hit .260 something,” Wells said. “From that point, it just gradually got worse. These last three weeks have been a matter of trying to stay inside the ball and hit the ball hard and still hit a few homers. It’s just a byproduct of taking good swings and keeping my hands short. You live, and you learn. Now I’ve just got to be consistent with this approach. When I am consistent with this approach, I’m a much better player than I have been the last couple of years.”
In other words, Wells is well aware of his numbers, and he said he spent this offseason trying to get back to the things that won him a massive seven-year, $126 million contract in the first place.
“Coming into spring training and throughout the offseason, my goal was just to get back to the basics and just put the barrel on the ball as many times as I can,” Wells said. “Shorten my swing and use the other field. I forgot what right field was like for a couple of years. You get caught up in hitting home runs and seeing how far you can hit them, and your swing changes. I was able to take some time this offseason, look at a lot of video from when I was younger and just spraying the ball all over the field. Once we got into spring training, that was my goal. And so far, so good. Getting back to just being short and quick, and balls are still jumping off my bat and my hands are still as quick as they were when I was younger.”
Wells was hitting .361/.390/.722 in Angels camp, but it remains to be seen whether that sort of success can carry into the regular season. Wells seems to be in good shape, and he was easy to like during today’s introductory group interview, but he’s going to be judged on his production.
“You always respect the game and whatever happens, happens,” Wells said. “But enjoy your time in the uniform, and I’m going to enjoy my time in this uniform.”
• Outfielder Exircado Cayones and left-handed pitcher Kramer Sneed are going to the Angels to complete the Wells trade. The Yankees announced that they will make a 40-man move later, so for now there are 41 players on the 40-man.
• Derek Jeter acknowledged that he’s onboard with the Yankees plan to have him open the season on the disabled list. “I just ran out of days,” he said. Jeter will get treatment today and he’s not sure when he’ll try to play again.
• Will Jeter come to Opening Day just to be a part of the ceremony? “Whatever gets me ready to play the soonest,” he said. “If it calls for me to be here to do stuff to get ready to play sooner, I will stay here and get ready to play sooner.”
• Phil Hughes will start another minor league game tomorrow. David Phelps will start tomorrow’s big league game. Those two are obviously on the same schedule so that either one can start April 6.
• Juan Rivera said he hasn’t heard anything about his roster status, but today was the deadline to either release him, put him on the 25-man roster or pay him a $100,000 retention bonus. The fact he’s still here and hasn’t heard anything about the roster suggests the Yankees are going to give him $100,000 to stick around, which suggests he’s a favorite — for now — to be on the roster.
• Wells was assigned No. 56, which really belongs to Tony Pena. Well said he’ll be assigned a lower number once the season starts.
• Wells said he’s fully healthy. Last year’s thumb injury was kind of a freakish situation and he feels good now.
• Cesar Cabral was scheduled to throw batting practice to Casey Stevenson, Neil Medchill and Luke Murton but I didn’t see it and didn’t see Cabral afterward.
• Although he was technically optioned a while back, this was the first day Corban Joseph wasn’t in big league camp. He’s officially joined minor league camp.
• Today’s second string: C Bobby Wilson, 1B Luke Murton, 2B Gil Velazquez, SS Jayson Nix, 3B Ronnier Mustelier, LF Ben Francisco, CF Melky Mesa, RF Thomas Neal
• Today’s scheduled relievers: Mariano Rivera, Dave Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Jim Miller, Vidal Nuno
• Tomorrow’s travel squad
Pitchers: Juan Cedeno, Preston Claiborne, David Phelps, Branden Pinder, Josh Spence
Catcher: Bobby Wilson
Infielders: Robinson Cano, Dan Johnson, Jayson Nix, Eduardo Nunez, Gil Velazquez
Outfielders: Brennan Boesch, Ben Francisco, Brett Gardner, Melky Mesa, Ronnier Mustelier, Thomas Neal
Associated Press photos