Saturday, June 12, 2004

Wells tight-lipped in Yankee Stadium return

The Associated Press

NEW YORK - David Wells finally might have figured out how to steer clear of controversy in New York: Don't talk to the media.

The broad and usually boisterous Wells returned to Yankee Stadium for the first time since signing with the San Diego Padres in the offseason and refused to speak with a large contingent of reporters.

"Sorry, guys, I got stuff to do," Wells said.

When prodded to talk by his teammate Phil Nevin, Wells said to him: "Did you see (what) they wrote about me when I left?"

In a move similar to the one he pulled on Arizona before the 2002 season, Wells signed a one-year major-league contract with the Padres after the Yankees thought he had agreed to a minor-league deal.

Two years ago, Wells had a handshake deal to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks when Yankees owner George Steinbrenner convinced him to return to New York over lunch just days later.

Wells expressed bitterness over how the Yankees handled his offseason surgery and how the media portrayed his leaving for San Diego in an article in a New York newspaper on Thursday.

Whatever Wells feels about his departure, fans still favor the pitcher who helped the Yankees win a World Series in 1998 and made headlines with his freewheeling personality and penchant for the New York nightlife in his two stints with the team in 1997-98 and 2002-03.

Padres manager Bruce Bochy pointed out several fans were asking for him outside the team's hotel. And Yankees manager Joe Torre said, "I assume the fans are very appreciative of what he did here."

While Wells hasn't completely been free of controversy in San Diego - he missed three weeks after cutting his hand on a wine bottle when he tripped over a bar stool in his home, Bochy thinks the left-hander has been a positive influence on the young San Diego staff.

Wells is 2-4 with a 3.40 ERA, but the Padres have scored just 12 runs while he is on the mound in his nine starts.

He returned from the disabled list Tuesday and matched Boston's Pedro Martinez for 5 2-3 shutout innings.

"He matched up with Pedro with zeros until I took him out," Bochy said. "The other pitchers look at that and see it's about competing, pitching to win. Then (Brian) Lawrence went out and did that."

Lawrence pitched five innings of shutout ball the following day.

Wells will start Sunday against the Yankees.

"I don't think he'll do anything extra. He's been in big games," Bochy said of Wells, who is 10-3 in the postseason.

Bochy is sometimes bemused by his pitcher, especially when it comes to his music.

Wells plays heavy metal in the clubhouse on the days of his starts.

"It's as bad as it gets. I don't know what it is," he said. "I just can't wait for him to go out and warm up so I can turn it off."

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