For Angels' Vernon Wells, it's a whole new ballgame

Coming over from Toronto, Vernon Wells is moving from center field to left, a position he has never played during the regular season. He plans to learn 'tricks of the trade as I go.'

February 18, 2011|By Mike DiGiovanna
  • New Angels outfielder Vernon Wells will move from center to left field, where he should be an upgrade over Juan Rivera and Bobby Abreu from last year.
New Angels outfielder Vernon Wells will move from center to left field,… (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles…)

Reporting from Tempe, Ariz. — If Friday felt like "the first day of school" for Vernon Wells, who introduced himself to dozens of new teammates and coaches, Saturday will probably feel like the first day of class.

Wells, acquired from Toronto for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera on Jan. 21, is moving from center field, a position where he won three Gold Glove awards, to left field, a position he has not played in any of his 12 regular seasons in the major leagues.

The transition will begin Saturday, when Wells and the Angels hold their first full-squad workout.

"It's pretty much, 'The ball's hit, go catch it.'" said Wells, who did play left field in the All-Star game last July. "I've been around this game long enough. There's more backing up bases, more angles in different stadiums, paying more attention to how a lot of the cutoffs are, especially down the line."

According to advanced defensive statistics, Wells' range and overall ability in center field has declined in recent years, but he should be a huge upgrade over Rivera and Bobby Abreu, who shared left field for much of last season.

"He can absolutely be a great left fielder, but I don't think there's pressure on him to be great," Manager Mike Scioscia said. "You're not going to impact the game as much on the defensive end from left field as you are from center.

"But we're projecting him to do things in left field that we haven't seen in a while as far as range and containing the running game."

One of the left-field quirks in Angel Stadium is the concrete below the padded portion of the wall, which can give low rollers in the corner a pinball effect.

"You have to kind of put your foot up against the wall to stop it from going anywhere," Wells said. "There will be some tricks of the trade as I go."

Wells knocks new rivals

Wells was critical of the Texas Rangers' handling of his friend Michael Young, the veteran third baseman whose trade request was made public by the team two weeks ago.

Wells and Young were drafted by Toronto in 1997 and were minor league teammates for three years. Though they've played on different big league teams, they have remained close.

Young, for years the face of the Rangers' franchise, lost his third-base job to free-agent signee Adrian Beltre, and the team continues to comment on its efforts to shop Young.

Wells was mentioned in winter trade rumors, but he wasn't linked with the Angels until hours before the trade was announced Jan. 21.

"I dealt with it in a completely different way," Wells said. "I dealt with it in-house, which was the right way to do things. He's having to deal with it, unfortunately, publicly. It creates all kinds of problems. It's been handled poorly on their end, I'll say that."

Wells said the controversy surrounding Young and the distraction it could create in Texas' camp gave him greater respect for the way Toronto General Manager Alex Anthopoulos and Angels GM Tony Reagins handled negotiations.

"They kept it in-house," Wells said. "Even if it didn't happen, no one would have heard about it. It's one of those situations where it's our business."

Under the radar

Mike Trout reported for his first big league camp Friday just hoping to blend in, but that might be tough for a 19-year-old center fielder who is widely regarded as the top overall prospect in baseball.

"It's an honor, man; it's what you dream about," Trout said. "I'm definitely going to stay quiet and do my thing."

Scioscia was 18 when he participated in his first major league camp with the Dodgers, so he has an idea of what Trout, who is expected to open the season at double-A Arkansas, will go through.

"It's going to be nothing but a positive for Mike, even if he struggles with some things," Scioscia said. "You see what major league arms are like. You see what major league quickness is like. You see some major league command if you get at-bats later in the spring. The lessons he'll learn here are going to be positives."

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