All's Well That Ends Wells?

Limited to just nine starts in 2006 because of injuries Wells is expected to fill one of the three vacancies in the rotation created when Jeff Suppan, Jeff Weaver and Jason Marquis became free agents.

On Tuesday Wells took a small pay cut from $4.15 to $4 million and agreed to a one-year, deal with the St. Louis Cardinals.

The 29-year-old right-hander comes to St. Louis after suffering four long seasons on a not very good Pittsburgh Pirate team before being traded to the Texas Rangers at the 2006 trade deadline.

Wells began the 2006 season on the Pittsburgh disabled list as he underwent surgery on March 6 to repair a blocked artery in his right arm. The procedure, which involved replacing the artery with a vein taken from Wells' leg, was actually performed in St. Louis by Dr. Robert Thompson of Barnes Jewish Hospital.

Wells didn't make his 2006 season debut until June 20 and racked up a dismal record of 1-5 with a 6.69 ERA (36.1 IP / 27 ER) in seven starts for the Pirates, including a 1-1, 1.83 mark in his final three outings before being dealt to Texas at the trade delaine.

After being traded to the Rangers on July 31 and earning a victory in his first start as a Ranger, his second start was delayed because of inflammation in his throwing shoulder.

"This season has been a tough season," Wells said. "It's frustrating from a competitive standpoint to have these setbacks. It's unfortunate."

Another setback was right around the corner as Wells made just two starts with the Rangers (1-0, 5.63 ERA) before a sprained left foot suffered on August 11 versus Seattle ended his season. Wells was a combined 2-5 with a 6.50 ERA (44.1 IP / 32 ER) in his nine starts with the Bucs and Rangers.

Looking at the numbers as a whole, the signing of Wells doesn't give you much comfort, but it should be noted that Kip was 2-1 with a 2.93 ERA (27.2 IP / 9 ER) over his final five starts and the Cardinals think that the Wells in his final five starts, is the one they signed.

Wells ranks as one of the biggest disappointments in baseball over the past two seasons. The 2006 season was practically a wash, with him missing out on basically two-thirds of his starts because of injuries and Wells finished the 2005 season with an 8-18 record, 5.09 ERA and a 1.57 whip in 182 innings.

The big knock on Wells in 05 was that he pitched in way too many five inning games with pitch counts up in the 120-plus range.

Wells has a long history of control problems that went from bad to worse in 2005 when he led the National League in losses. He walked one of every six batters he faced that season which is no way for a major league starter to make a living especially in St. Louis.

So you look at Well's dismal record over the past four seasons, along with the history of injuries and the control problems and you have to wonder why St. Louis would sign the 30 year old right-hander to a contract?

I'll give you one good reason, pitching coach Dave Duncan.

According to St. Louis Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty. "Kip is a pitcher that we've had our eye on for a while, and I can tell you that [pitching coach] Dave Duncan is especially happy with this move," said Jocketty. "For years, Dunc has tried to persuade me to acquire Kip Wells at some point, so we finally have done that."

If I may step in Dave Duncan's spikes for a few minutes here is what I think he sees in Wells.

1. Wells came back from elbow and hand injuries and he still had his same four pitch arsenal as before and pitched 182 innings in 05 for a team that finished almost 30 games below .500 with a regular season record of 67-95. (You won't have a post season record with a 67-95 won-loss record).

2. Playing for the Pirates forced Wells to try to do too much on the mound and he didn't have the opportunity to challenge batters, as he will be called on to do in St. Louis and he should feel more comfortable with the offensive and defensive support from the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals.

3. Wells has a fastball that stays between 82-92 MPH and can do that all day long, up to 100 pitches. At times Kip can hit up to 95 MPH on the radar gun and he'll be called on to do that as well in St. Louis

4. Wells lost control of his slider in 2005, causing it to drift on him out of the strike zone and he still had problems with it at times last season, but my take is that Duncan believes that Wells problem is mechanical and not physical, and Duncan can address the mechanical problems.

5. Throughout his career Wells has been an underachiever with a significantly higher ceiling than he has shown to date and the Cardinals think in "Baseball Heaven", that he'll have a better chance to living up to his potential, which is significant.

Taking a look at our scouting report on Wells and you can see where the Cardinals think signing him to a deal will likely pay big dividends.


Wells has four pitches in his arsenal. He throws a fastball from 88-95 MPH, with a slider between 84-87, a changeup that is effective when Wells takes his time and his out pitch, a 73-78 MPH curve.

Wells has got a consistent motion, that the Cardinals coaching staff likes, that enables him to change speeds effectively and keeps the opposing batters off balanced.

If pitching coach Dave Duncan can get him to slow down, trust in his stuff, make some minor mechanical adjustments on his slider, improve the control of his curve ball and get Wells to be more aggressive on the mound, he'll finally garner the command of his considerable talent, much to the delight of the St. Louis fans.

Then it will be "All's well that ends Wells"


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