Jays' Wells' shoulder feeling strong
Center fielder connects for first spring homer against Pirates
DUNEDIN, Fla. -- The baseball that Vernon Wells lofted into the air in the fourth inning on Wednesday arched high into the Florida sky and disappeared into the trees beyond the left-field wall at Knology Park.
The solo home run came on a 1-2 offering from Pittsburgh starter Zach Duke, who became the first victim of a Wells blast in 2008. Considering the circumstances surrounding the Blue Jays' center fielder -- he had season-ending surgery on his left shoulder in September -- the homer seemed like something that would be very satisfying for Wells.
Wells said a clearer look at the pitch would've helped.
"I may have felt better if I actually saw the ball -- like I felt like I knew what I was doing," Wells joked. "It was just two strikes and I saw some blurry white thing coming at me, so I swung at it.
"I think it works more often than not. You take your chances. I tried doing it with my eyes open last year and that didn't really work. I'm going to try something different this year."
Last season, Wells struggled with the shoulder injury throughout the year and finished with a .245 average, 16 homers and 80 RBIs in 149 games. That showing came after a strong campaign in 2006, when Wells hit .303 with 32 home runs and 106 RBIs for the Blue Jays.
Wells has spent a lot of time with hitting coach Gary Denbo this spring, and over the winter as well, breaking down what went wrong with the center fielder's swing last year. Wells said he's concentrating on taking a slower approach this spring in order to focus on taking good swings and not getting caught up in results.
"I'm just trying to slow everything down," Wells said. "I think last year it just got to the point where I didn't feel as strong, so you try to do so much more and try to swing harder and do things harder, instead of just allowing yourself to do what you normally do, and just create your pop and not worry about home runs."
Wells has six hits in 23 spring at-bats, but he said he's started to feel more comfortable at the plate over the past week. His shoulder injury also hasn't presented any issues in the first few weeks in Florida. That's a great sign for the Blue Jays, who are counting on Wells to be an important part of the lineup.
"Right now, it's some good and some bad," said Wells, referring to how his swing has felt. "That's what Spring Training is all about, just trying to get the bat [going]. The last week or so, I've felt better, and hopefully I'll just continue to get better."
But will he keep swinging with his eyes closed?
"We'll see how long it lasts," Wells said with a laugh. "As soon as I take an 0-for-20, maybe I'll start opening up my eyes again. Until that happens, we'll stick with this."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.