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Vernon Wells tries to see positives after Angels' 2-1 loss to Oakland in 10 innings

Outfielder, who is off to a poor start, nearly escapes a serious injury while trying to make a catch, so he chooses to look at the glass as half full.

April 27, 2011|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • Angels left fielder Vernon Wells misses a line drive hit by Oakland's Cliff Pennington between Wells and center fielder Peter Bourjos to lead off the 10th inning Wednesday night at Angel Stadium.
Angels left fielder Vernon Wells misses a line drive hit by Oakland's… (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles…)

It was with a straight face that Vernon Wells answered a question about whether his first month with the Angels could be going any worse.

"Yeah, it could be worse," Wells said after the Angels' 2-1, 10-inning loss to the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday. "A lot of other things could have gone wrong. It hasn't been a smooth transition, but it's only one month."

Technically, Wells is correct. The former Toronto Blue Jays slugger, acquired by the Angels in January for catcher Mike Napoli and outfielder Juan Rivera, could be batting .100 instead of .178, his average after 25 games.

The left fielder could have no home runs instead of one. He could have fewer than the five runs batted in he has. His on-base percentage (.224) and slugging percentage (.257) could be worse. He could have more than 20 strikeouts in 101 at-bats.

And he could have torn ligaments in his left knee Wednesday when, as he tried a sliding catch of Cliff Pennington's sinking liner in the 10th inning, the knee stuck deep into the ground, producing a divot big enough for diminutive infielder Alexi Amarista to climb into.

Wells emerged from the game's decisive play unscathed, but the mental scar tissue is beginning to accumulate for the Angels' highest-paid player, who is being paid $23 million this season.

In addition to his sluggish month at the plate, Wells failed to make a play Wednesday he said "should have been made."

As a result, the Angels, who rallied for an unearned run against former Angels closer Brian Fuentes to tie the score in the ninth, were unable to complete a three-game sweep of the A's.

"No doubt, he's struggling with some things," Manager Mike Scioscia said of Wells. "He's searching hard, trying to find it. We're waiting for him to get into his game."

Wells, who has hit fourth or fifth this season, has hardly resembled the middle-of-the-order slugger who hit .273 with 31 homers and 88 RBIs for the Blue Jays last season.

After Bobby Abreu's opposite-field, run-scoring double tied the score and Torii Hunter was walked intentionally with one out in the ninth Wednesday, Wells struck out. Alberto Callaspo then popped out to second base, ending the inning.

Pennington, facing closer Jordan Walden, led off the 10th inning with a liner to the gap in left-center field. Speedy Peter Bourjos closed in from center field, as did Wells, the three-time Gold Glove winner who transitioned from center to left this season.

Neither called for the ball — "It was in no-man's land," right fielder Hunter said — and Wells hesitated at the last second before making an awkward lunge for it. The ball got by both outfielders and rolled to the warning track for a triple.

Walden, who had not given up an earned run in 101/3 innings this season, got David DeJesus to bounce back to the mound for the first out.

But after Daric Barton was walked intentionally, Conor Jackson chopped a grounder off the plate that took a high hop before reaching shortstop Erick Aybar, who threw to first for the out but had no play at the plate, which Pennington crossed for the go-ahead run.

"I saw [Bourjos] at the last minute, but it's still a play that has to be made," Wells said. "It was one of those plays where you have two guys going hard, and both want to catch it. We haven't had one like that. You learn from it and don't let it happen again."

Bourjos' speed may have actually hurt the Angels on this play. If Wells didn't hear footsteps, he might have made the catch.

"I think I might have scared Vern off the ball," Bourjos said. "It was perfectly placed. I didn't want to call it and then dive and not make the play."

mike.digiovanna@latimes.com

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