Wells calibrating his mechanics
Right-hander aims to secure slot in Rockies rotation
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Rockies right-handed-rotation candidate Kip Wells has been dealing with baserunners all spring -- 32 via hit, walk or hit batsmen over 19 innings in four Cactus League games and a Minor League start.
With all that, his combined ERA could be worse than 5.50. So his work pitching out of the stretch could be considered a positive. It would be an asset for a reliever, but Wells is battling for one of the five starting slots.
Wells can enhance his candidacy for the rotation on Sunday afternoon, against the Dodgers at Hi Corbett Field.
"If there's any kind of irregularity in your delivery, from any standpoint, the stretch is going to abbreviate that," Wells said. "For me, continuing to have the same mental focus with nobody on and nobody out that I have with a man on first with nobody out is just the ongoing focus. I have to take the offensive game plan at the hitter, regardless of the situation."
After an offseason of deconstructing and rebuilding his delivery, Wells has been dealing with various mechanics issues all spring. But the Rockies, who signed Wells for one year and $3.1 million to replace Josh Fogg in the rotation, need to see him simply attack hitters and display the type of work they want to see during the regular season.
Barring injury, Wells' contract means he'll be a part of the team when the season starts. But if he has to be in the bullpen, it intensifies the club's issue of too many arms for too few positions. Right-handers Ramon Ramirez and Ryan Speier and left-handed non-roster candidate Micah Bowie have all pitched well enough to justify prime consideration.
Last season with the Cardinals, Wells led the National League in losses while going 7-17 with a 5.70 ERA. In his favor, however, he was better as a reliever (2-0, 1.31 ERA in eight appearances) than as a starter (5-17, 6.27 in 27 starts). The Rockies' last two rotation spots are undetermined. Left-handed prospect Franklin Morales, left-handed veteran Mark Redman and right-hander Josh Towers are competing.
Manager Clint Hurdle and pitching coach Bob Apodaca have preferred for location pitchers to avoid walks and force ground balls in hopes of getting outs in as few pitches as possible. That allows pitchers to work deep in games -- an important factor in preserving the bullpen.
Apodaca wants to see results, rather than precision with the parts of Wells' game.
"Sometimes, I think we try to make it too complicated," Apodaca said, "instead of just saying, 'I'm staying at the bottom of the strike zone with every pitch I throw. I'm an athlete. If it's not working, I've got to find a way to get it done.'
"It's not all about mechanics and X's and O's. Sometimes, it's just the sheer competition of you being an athlete vs. that athlete 60 feet away. Sure, we work on mechanics, but that's always something that I think we fall back on too much. Sometimes as humans, we do."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.