All's Wells in relief for the Rockies
Righty prefers to start, but becoming a major force out of 'pen
DENVER -- Rockies right-hander Kip Wells is pitching effectively in relief. But Wells insists effectiveness and relief aren't necessarily connected.
Wells, who turned 31 on Monday, signed a one-year, $3.1 million contract with the Rockies, hoping to start. But the club moved him to relief late in Spring Training. Now he has 8 2/3 scoreless innings since April 11, including four innings to earn a 2-1 victory over the Padres in Thursday night's 22-inning game.
"I expected to have success this season, period," said Wells, who is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in seven appearances, all but one in relief. "I felt the way I prepared myself this season would hopefully translate into results in whatever task I was asked to do. I came into camp applying those things. Obviously, the task requirements adjusted at midstream.
"But I'm not going to pigeonhole myself by saying the reason I'm having success is that. My first outing I started and did fine," he added, referring to the one run he gave up at St. Louis in a 5 1/3-inning no-decision.
The Rockies went with left-hander Mark Redman as the No. 4 starter and lefty Franklin Morales at No. 5, more because they had seen them last year and were more familiar with them. Wells put up poor numbers early in the spring, and the Rockies felt they needed to trim the competition.
Manager Clint Hurdle, who realizes Wells' preference is to start, has no problem with the pitcher's work when called upon. Wells has held right-handed hitters to a .136 average (3-for-22), but left-handers are hitting just .219 (7-for-32). Wells also is consistently throwing first-pitch strikes, and Hurdle likes his pace on the mound better now than in the spring.
"He's got a plus fastball," Hurdle said. "He can spin that breaking ball; that's a hard curveball. The slider, I just think the crispness of his pitches have all picked up. He's pitching more ahead of the count. That's the biggest difference."
Hurdle also noted that Wells has a knack for matching up well with good hitters. The Phillies, the Rockies' opponent Monday and Tuesday night, serve as a good example. Ryan Howard is 2-for-11, 2007 National League Most Valuable Player Jimmy Rollins (who is on the disabled list and won't play) is 1-for-18 and Chase Utley is an unspectacular .267 with two RBIs in 16 plate appearances lifetime against Wells.
Despite his preference, Wells is giving relief his full effort, even though his role is not as defined and the results bear that out.
"I'm still trying to figure out, routine-wise, how to prepare myself and get the juices flowing correctly, not overdo it and not under-do it," Wells said. "In my case, from a stress standpoint it's higher stress.
"I'm not 'Tito' [left-hander Brian Fuentes], who's like, when the eighth rolls around, I'm ready to rock. But I'm trying to help the ballclub as best I can and be as prepared as I can."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.