Padres Prospect Interview: Jared Wells

PORTLAND, OR: In 2006, Jared Wells was rolling. After Cesar Carrillo, he was considered the Padres best starting pitching prospect. He made the Southern League All-Star team but was promoted to Portland before he could play in the game.

The former football and baseball star from San Jacinto Junior College finally seemed to be on his way. Wells came to college with the intention of being the starting quarterback on the football team and a power hitting outfielder in the spring. A severe knee injury, however, cost him his football career and forced his conversion to the mound in baseball.

Still, he had enough ability for the Padres to draft him in 2002 and sign him as a draft-and-follow in 2003, largely on the strength of a big fastball. The next few years Wells steadily metamorphosed into a pitcher, developing a solid slider and a decent changeup to go along with his hard sinking fastball.

His arrival in the Pacific Coast League, however, took some interesting turns.

He bombed as a starter. In the second half of 2006 after his promotion, he was shelled, as batters teed off at a .296 clip against him with a 7.27 ERA. In the first half of last year, he wasn't much better. In April, he had an ERA of 6.75 and May was even worse at 7.17.

In mid-season, the organization decided to convert him to a relief pitcher and something started to click. In August of '07, things finally got back on track, as he converted 6-of-7 save opportunities and posted an ERA of 0.66, striking out 20 batters in 13.2 innings.

This year Wells, 26, is again the Beavers closer. He's 1-0 with eight saves in as many opportunities. His K/BB ratio is a little high at 14/10 and his ERA could be better at 5.00, but he throws strikes has fewer hits than innings pitched at 18/16 and batters are hitting .242 against him.

But, for Wells, the most important statistic is that he wins.

In the first half of 2006, you were having a very good year in Mobile in Double-A then got promoted to Portland and struggled. The first half of 2007 you also struggled as a starter in Portland, but then when you got moved to the bullpen and became the closer you really put up some very good numbers. What happened?

Jared Wells: I developed a couple of bad habits when I pulled my hamstring in '06, and I think in many ways I tried to come back too soon. I think it really just started to beat me down mentally because I couldn't execute my mechanics and was giving up to too many walks.

In the past, you have been pretty tough on yourself even when things are going well.

Jared Wells: I was really beating myself up. My mechanics were bad, and I wasn't throwing strikes, I just didn't feel comfortable on the mound. Pitching is probably 90 percent mental, and I just let it wear on me. At the start of '07 I was trying to mentally prepare myself but the adrenalin still wasn't there. When they moved me to the bullpen it was kind an eye-opening thing for me because it's a totally different mindset going into the game. I feel like it suited me better to get me back on track, and now I feel I can do either or.

It always seemed that you are a fairly intense person and the chance to be in the game more often than every fifth game seems to suit your personality more.

Jared Wells: That is just it. Even though you know you're not going to go everyday in the bullpen you have to prepare yourself to go every day. You never know if you go into extra innings you are going to have to go. I really like that feeling that I have a chance to get in there and be a part of it.

It seems that most people that come out of the bullpen, especially in the minor leagues, have one pitch and maybe another they are working on. As a former starter you still have three quality pitches. Do you think that gives you an advantage over other relievers?

Jared Wells: Absolutely. I haven't thrown my split [Wells throws a split/change] all year because I've been getting ahead in the count with my fastball and getting them to roll over. If they just see my fastball and slider, I know I can throw my split at any time. Really, I have four pitches because my two-seam fastball looks a lot like my split.

Your pitching coach Glenn Abbott said that mentally you have really come a long way since Mobile in ‘06.

Jared Wells: Yeah, I've come to realize a win is a win. No one likes walking people or not succeeding, but the key is to go out there and compete. If we are winning, I'm not going to be complaining because I'm in there too.

Is it tough mentally to be the closer to know that you are the guy the whole team is looking too to get those final three outs. It must be a decent amount of pressure.

Jared Wells: Actually, I kind of thrive on that. When I first became a starter my adrenalin really was pretty good, then it kind of became a little monotonous for me and began to fade. But ever since I've moved to the bullpen it's been there everytime. I think I thrive off it more than anything else. You know they say that you have to control it, but when I go out to the mound I have to have it. I don't think I'm worth that much if I don't have it.

Is it an advantage to you that batters only have one look at you as compared to as a starter they would get three sometimes four plate appearances against you? That way you don't have to worry about what you threw to them the previous at-bats.

Jared Wells: That is always an advantage. In the past, I didn't have as good as command as I do now, but honestly, right now, I feel pretty confident in my abilities that I think I could do both if they needed me too. But, right now, I just love the adrenalin rush from being the closer every time I go out there.

You seem like you've lost quite a bit of weight from when I saw you last, at least 20 pounds. Why did you and how did you do it?

Jared Wells: I just started taking better care of myself, mainly not eating any more fast-food and the weight just started dropping off. I got down to 205, which felt pretty good because that is the weight I was when I signed. I felt like an athlete again, which is also what I weighed when I blew my knee out playing football. When I went to China, I got sick and ended up dropping some more weight and I'm down to 190, but I want to get back up to around 205.

You have to go back to Texas and get some more brisket.

Jared Wells: Yeah, and some steaks wouldn't be bad either.

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