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02/22/06 3:19 PM EST

Wells injures left leg during workout

Jays outfielder questionable for World Baseball Classic

DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Vernon Wells' absence from camp on Wednesday signaled the first minor setback for the Blue Jays.

It was revealed that Wells has been nursing a strained left quadriceps since Sunday, when he injured the leg while lifting weights. The best remedy for the ailment is two to three weeks of rest, which puts Wells' status with Team USA for the upcoming World Baseball Classic in jeopardy.

"At this point, we have to make the call based on what the long-term prognosis is. Right now it looks like rest is the prescribed medication," Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said. "So if he has to rest for two weeks, that takes you to the beginning of March. Maybe it's something he doesn't play in the first round. Maybe he's better to go later on."

Wells was one of six outfielders selected for the Americans' 30-man roster for the inaugural tournament. The others picked included Ken Griffey of the Reds, Johnny Damon of the Yankees, Randy Winn of the Giants, Jeff Francoeur of the Braves and Matt Holliday of the Rockies.

If Wells does decide to sit out of the Classic, Team USA could dip into its provisional roster for a replacement. The only other outfielders chosen for that group were San Francisco's Barry Bonds, Houston's Lance Berkman, Tampa Bay's Carl Crawford and Arizona's Luis Gonzalez. Gonzalez would probably be the most likely candidate to sub for Wells because the other three outfielders have declined to participate.

Injuries have just been one of the concerns that teams have had regarding the World Baseball Classic. Toronto is just relieved that Wells' situation came up now and not while he was with Team USA.

"I guess it happened at the right time if it's going to happen -- if there is a right time," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Time is on our side."

Last year, Wells picked up his second straight American Gold Glove Award for his work in center field and was also the Jays' leader in home runs (28) and RBIs (97).

During the offseason, Toronto added slugging third baseman Troy Glaus and first baseman Lyle Overbay to help occupy the heart of the order with Wells. That added protection has Toronto believing that Wells is due for another solid year at the plate.

That's one reason that the team wants to be extra cautious with this early injury to their star outfielder.

"I would rather him not play," Gibbons said matter-of-factly. "Vernon is a guy we definitely have to keep healthy. We can't take a chance on him."

Wells' status for the tournament isn't something that will be decided right away, but his chances of recovering in time to join Team USA on March 2 are slim.

"That hasn't been determined," Gibbons said. "But I think it's going to be awful tough for him [to play in the Classic] simply because he's not in shape to do it. I don't know how he's going to do it."

Wells wasn't available for comment, but he has said that playing in the World Baseball Classic was something that he was really looking forward to. He would have joined Griffey as the only other Gold Glove winner in the outfield.

The tournament was also a chance for Wells to get some momentum heading into the regular season. He has a .221 career batting average in April and he said recently that he believed playing in the Classic's competitive environment would help give his offense a boost.

"It's an honor," Wells said about being selected on Feb. 14. "I think it'll be great for [the players], as far as getting our minds focused on games that actually mean something. I think that's something you lack in Spring Training. It's a chance to get your timing down with your adrenaline flowing like it's the regular season."

The plan now is to have Wells simply rest the injury and allow for some recovery time. Ricciardi said that Wells could still take batting practice and throw, but that running drills would probably be out of the equation for a while.

Wells was going to be an important part of Team USA, but he'll also be an integral part of any success the revamped Blue Jays might have this season. Having him sit out of the Classic might be the best way to insure he's healthy for Toronto.

If Wells gets over the injury faster than expected, though, there is still a chance he will suit up for the United States.

"With the extent of the injury, I'd say it's probably unlikely right now, which is unfortunate for him because I know he was looking forward to going," Ricciardi said. "As long as he's healthy to go, we have no problem [with him playing in the tournament]. It's just a matter of his health being right. At some point it has to be our concern, too."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.