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ANGELS FYI

Vernon Wells faces friends turned foes in Angels' home opener

The outfielder's former club, the Toronto Blue Jays, is Friday's opponent, and 'it'll definitely be strange' to play against them, he says.

April 07, 2011|By Kevin Baxter and Mike DiGiovanna
  • Angels outfielder Vernon Wells will take on his former teammates when the Toronto Blue Jays make their way to Angel Stadium on Friday.
Angels outfielder Vernon Wells will take on his former teammates when the… (Kim Klement / U.S. Presswire )

Until last week, the only team Vernon Wells had played for was the Toronto Blue Jays. Friday night he'll be playing against them for the first time while playing in his first home opener with his new team, the Angels.

"It'll definitely be strange," said Wells, who played parts of 12 seasons for the Blue Jays before being traded to the Angels in January. "But it's better to get it out of the way early. It's funny how it worked out."

Torii Hunter had a similar experience when he signed a free-agent contract with the Angels after 15 years in the Twins organization. That spring his new team opened the season against his old one in Minnesota.

"I was like, 'C'mon, who made this up?' " said Hunter, who admitted he almost jogged over to the wrong dugout after making an out.

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"It's tough," Hunter continued. "That's the team you grew up with from the start of your career. And within months you change. It's just a weird feeling, knowing everybody on the ballclub. Some of the guys that got called up, you've known them since they were youngsters.

"You think you'll be with one team for the rest of your career and it doesn't turn out to be."

Wells says he'll visit with old friends before the game but what he really hopes to get in touch with this weekend is the baseball. In his first four games as an Angel, Wells struck out eight times and got just four hits, so he'll take a .111 average into the home opener.

"I just have to hit," he said. "It doesn't matter who you're playing against. It is what it is.

"It will be fun, though, to play a home game for the first time."

Wells, a three-time All-Star, ranks in the top three in Blue Jays history in nine categories, including games played (1,393), runs (789), hits (1,529) and home runs (223).

Weather or not

The forecast may not have been favorable earlier this week, but the chance of rain delaying the first pitch at Angel Stadium had dropped to about 30% by Thursday night — which should have been predicted.

A game hasn't been rained out at Angel Stadium since June 1995 and a home opener has never been postponed by weather there. The last time the franchise had a home opener called on account of rain was in April 1965, when the team played at Dodger Stadium.

The Angels have won six of their last seven home openers and are 23-27 overall.

The rehab route

Angels reliever Scott Downs had a rocky rehabilitation appearance for Class-A Inland Empire on Thursday night, giving up one earned run and two hits and walking one in one inning against Rancho Cucamonga.

The veteran left-hander, who broke his left big toe March 13 and opened the season on the disabled list, is expected to make at least one more rehab appearance before he is activated by the Angels.

Angels outfielder Reggie Willits, on the disabled list because of a left calf strain, also began a rehab stint with Inland Empire on Thursday night, starting in left field and collecting a single and driving in two runs in four at-bats.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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