Wells confident he'll be ready for opener
With longer Spring Training, slugger has time to get in shape
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Vernon Wells plans on patrolling center field for the Blue Jays on Opening Day. Wells is confident that the strained left hamstring he's been fighting since the early stages of spring will be healed enough to allow him to return to his usual spot on the field and in the lineup.
"I don't see any reason why not," Wells said on Monday.
Wells' belief is partly based on the fact that the longer Spring Training schedule this year will provide him with ample time to get back in game shape. He plans on playing in his first Grapefruit League contest this weekend and had six at-bats in an intrasquad Minor League game at the Bobby Mattick Training Center on Sunday morning.
The Jays had been holding Wells out of games as a precaution after he injured his hamstring on Feb. 23. Wells said that he would have returned to the lineup by now if the same situation had occurred during the regular season. This being Spring Training, though, Toronto's training staff has instructed Wells to take his time to make sure his leg heals completely.
"They wanted me to be cautious since we're in Spring Training," Wells said. "If this was during the season, I would've been playing a week, week-and-a-half ago. They told me just take it slow and give it time, and when I come back, hopefully, I don't have any more issues with it."
That is a main concern with this particular injury for Wells.
When Wells tweaked the hamstring during routine Spring Training running drills, he aggravated an injury that came up last season. Last July, Wells hurt the same muscle while running the bases in a game against the Orioles and was sidelined for a month. Going forward, it is a realistic possibility that the injury will continue to present problems.
One way the Blue Jays plan to help minimize the risk is by having Wells occasionally serve as the designated hitter throughout the upcoming season. With no full-time DH, Toronto manager Cito Gaston has said he intends to rotate his outfielders between their primary positions and the DH slot. Adam Lind will likely receive the bulk of the starts as the DH.
"[Gaston] said he's going to DH me some," Wells said. "He's going to DH us all since we have the ability to do it, since we don't have an everyday DH now. He said he's going to give all of us a few days in the DH hole -- half a day off, pretty much -- just to keep the bat in the lineup. That'll keep a lot of guys fresh."
On Sunday, Wells said he served as the DH in the Minor League contest and finished with one hit in his six trips to the plate. The Jays didn't want Wells doing too much running, so he was replaced by for a pinch-runner every time he reached base in the game.
"I got a hit, I struck out once, I hit a few balls hard and I came back in one piece," Wells said. "It felt good. I was actually excited to get over there and get some at-bats. It's been a while. I enjoyed it."
Wells, who hit .300 with 20 home runs and 78 RBIs in 108 games last season, added that his timing at the plate was good -- a positive sign with three weeks to go before Opening Day. Toronto's center fielder said that the two months he spent on the DL last season helped him pick up ways to keep his reaction time sharp at the plate.
"I learned a lot last year about kind of what you need to do to get your timing back as quick as possible," said Wells. "I've been able to swing the bat in BP and things like that and work in the cage. Now it's just a matter of swinging at pitches."
Bird feed: Right-hander Brian Wolfe, who injured his throwing shoulder in an outing on Tuesday, threw lightly on flat ground for a few minutes on Monday -- his first time playing catch since the injury. Wolfe said he had some expected soreness, but nothing that raised any red flags. ... The Jays had a "B" game against the Phillies cancelled for Wednesday. Left-hander Scott Downs, who had soreness in his pitching elbow early in camp, was scheduled to pitch in the game. He is still slated to pitch Wednesday, but likely in a Minor League contest now. ... The Jays returned catchers Brian Jeroloman and J.P. Arencibia to Minor League camp on Sunday. The club also optioned pitchers Robert Ray, Bill Murphy and Davis Romero to Triple-A Las Vegas.
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.