All Well and Good for Randy Wells

Daytona pitcher Randy Wells has had a year to remember in the Florida State League. Inside, he opens up about his 2005 season, the transition from catching to pitching, and much more.

Wells, who turns 23 on Sunday, threw seven innings of two-hit, shutout ball in his last outing on Tuesday at Palm Beach. He won his fourth straight decision and is 3-0 over his last four starts with a 0.89 ERA.

Wells didn't begin the year in the starting rotation, though.

He first appeared in 31 games as a reliever and his sub-3.00 ERA in the first half was enough to earn him a spot on this year's Florida State League All-Star Game. A promotion to Double-A West Tenn would cause Wells to miss out on the opportunity of joining the league's elite in Clearwater, but he later rejoined the team after a two-week stint in Jackson and quickly picked up right where he had left off.

Since being removed from the bullpen in mid-July, Wells is 4-1 with a 2.63 ERA in eight starts. He has struck out 42 and walked just 10.

"It's been an unbelievable year," said Wells, 9-2 with a 2.91 ERA in 40 games, including nine starts. "Getting off to the fast start really helped me stay focused. As a reliever, I was locked in all the time. Now that I've gone back to starting, I've taken what I learned early on from the mental aspect and gone right at hitters. It's helped me because I didn't really make that adjustment last year at Lansing. Now I just want to finish off on a good note."

The fast start Wells spoke of was a 4-1 record and 1.69 ERA in his first 20 games. A season ago in the Midwest League, he was a semi-regular presence in Lansing's starting rotation. He made 15 starts and appeared in over 20 games from the bullpen, going 6-6 with a 4.43 ERA.

It was Wells' first year as a pitcher after being drafted in the 38th round in 2002 as a catcher. He batted .153 in two seasons of minor league action behind the plate before undergoing the position switch.

Now as a pitcher, Wells says he prefers the bullpen over starting, but that getting in the additional innings from the rotation will help his career in the long run.

"Last year in Spring Training, I was relieving since it was my first year pitching," Wells said. "I was doing really well and that's where I thought I was going to stay, but they put me at Lansing and let me start. It was pretty awkward at the beginning. I didn't deal with having guys on base and as a result my pitch counts were pretty high."

As for his response to the Cubs' decision to move him away from catching, Wells said, "My first reaction was, ‘Wow.' It was weird, only because I hadn't been catching all that long; not until my senior year of high school and throughout junior college. I was always a defensive-minded guy that could catch anywhere; I just didn't think I was getting a chance. At Lansing, I was only catching once a week, usually on Sunday's.

Included in Wells' repertoire is a four-seam fastball, a changeup and a slider. A two-seam fastball is also being perfected at the moment, which Wells admits he'll need in order to get more groundballs.

"Some times I do too much and get away from the hitters," he said. "It's been the hardest pitch for me to learn. Some days, it's lights out and some days it's terrible. I just have to keep working to try and get as good as I can."

At 6'3", 200 pounds, Wells is a warrior on the mound. He says his mindset is to, "Battle, battle, battle," something he and catcher Tony Richie have worked on - and through - this season.

"You're going to give up hits and walk some guys," said Wells. "What's helped me a lot is having Tony behind the plate. I love going to him, and he's really helped with relaxing me and telling me to step back. These last few outings, I'd been giving up a few two-out hits. Whenever someone gets on, he'll give me a hand signal and tell me to slow down."

Wells grew up in Belleville, Ill., only a 30-minute drive from St. Louis. He somehow managed to cheer for both the Cubs and Cardinals as a youngster and now dons Cubs wear when he returns to southern Illinois in the offseason. He is not the only athlete of his family, either, as his brother, Forry, played both football and baseball at the University of Illinois.

Randy himself is an avid fan of the Illini, the Chicago Bears, and Inside The Ivy.

"It's a great website that really does a lot for us as players," Wells said. "Hey, we're reading this stuff, too. We have up-to-date info and a great site for our families to go to and check out our photos, stats, and all the stories to read. We're on here a lot and so are our families. Remember, they never get the local newspapers back where they live, so it's great."

Wells will have plenty to do once the offseason rolls around. After bonding with Richie this season, the former Seminole has made plans to take Wells to several Florida State football games in Tallahassee this fall.

Wells also works with his father in the offseason and has a close relationship with his dad.

"He's a plumbing contractor, so I often drive the truck and deliver whatever needs to be delivered," Wells explained. "He's also a cattle farmer on the side, so I help out with that, too. It's always nice to be able to work with your dad. He's my best friend."


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