Wells takes day off; Lind hits third
Struggling outfielder will be dropped to fifth in order or lower
TORONTO -- Vernon Wells admits that he is as frustrated as he has been at any point in his career. On Wednesday morning, Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston called the slumping center fielder into his office and told Wells to take a day off.
"Let him rest and just clear his head a little bit," Gaston explained.
Wells knew that sitting out for one game couldn't hurt -- he's tried just about everything else to get his bat going. After an off-day on Thursday, Gaston plans on putting Wells back in the starting lineup for a four-game weekend set against the Yankees in New York. The manager just isn't sure where the center fielder will fit within the order.
Given the revised lineup rolled out by Gaston on Wednesday, Wells will likely be batting fifth or lower when he returns to the mix. Left fielder Adam Lind is the new No. 3 hitter -- a role that was filled by right fielder Alex Rios to open the season and was later handed to Wells. Rios' own struggles sent him tumbling down into the seventh hole.
Gaston will probably do something similar with Wells.
"Unfortunately, I haven't given him a choice," Wells said with a shrug. "If you swing the bat, you're going to be in the position where you're supposed to be. If you're not, you're going to be put in a different position. That's part of this game and that's something that, if you're moved, you've got to try to prove that you need to be back in that position."
Rios and Wells entered the year with high expectations and were the Nos. 3-4 hitters in Toronto's order through the season's first two months. Through 77 games entering Wednesday, Rios had hit .263 with nine home runs and 37 RBIs for the Jays. Wells had slumped to the tune of a .248 average with just seven homers and 36 RBIs in 79 games.
Over the past four games, Wells has managed only two hits in 16 at-bats, including a 1-for-4 showing on Tuesday night, when he stranded four baserunners in a 4-1 loss to the Rays. Prior to the recent four-game stretch, Wells hit at a .348 clip with two homers and eight RBIs over 10 games. That came after a 13-game period during which he hit .089 with no homers and only four RBIs.
Wells endured an 0-for-25 drought midway through June and also set a dubious career mark by going 160 at-bats without a home run during one forgettable stretch. Needless to say, it's been a season filled with inconsistency and complete frustration for Wells, who is in the third year of his seven-year, $126 million extension that he signed three winters ago.
"Being in the middle of the lineup, I'm supposed to be the person that's doing the damage," Wells said. "Each day has been frustrating when I haven't come through. Today is equally as frustrating as two weeks ago, or three weeks ago for that matter. I don't think there's been too many days this year where there hasn't been a frustrating aspect."
That doesn't just go for Wells, though.
As a whole, the Blue Jays' offense has slumped since tearing out of the gates with one of the best starts in franchise history. Dating back to Toronto's nine-game losing streak, which began on May 19, the Jays have hit .256 with 38 homers, averaging 4.1 runs on nine hits per game, with a 14-24 record. As a result, the club has tumbled from first to fourth place in the American League East.
"You can kind of see it in the dugout -- the frustration that's been going on," Wells said. "We just haven't been putting up runs. We haven't been swinging the bats as well as we were earlier in the year. Earlier in the year, I think guys' approaches and plans were working. Guys were getting hits, and it was contagious from that point.
"Unfortunately, it's kind of gone the other way. Obviously, you go through cycles like this, but with the guys that we have in the lineup, it shouldn't be prolonged like it has been."
It has persisted, though, and that is why Gaston has decided to make some changes, which is something he doesn't enjoy doing with his lineup.
The top two spots of the order -- occupied by shortstop Marco Scutaro and second baseman Aaron Hill, respectively -- will remain intact. Gaston plans on keeping Lind, who had hit .312 with 15 homers and 52 RBIs through 77 games entering Wednesday, in the No. 3 hole for now, and third baseman Scott Rolen has performed well as the cleanup man. That means Wells will be hitting fifth or lower come Friday.
"I'll think about it," Gaston said. "Give me a couple days to think about it and I'll see what I can come up with."
What Gaston doesn't want to do is put Wells so low that it could completely hurt the center fielder's confidence.
"You wouldn't want him hitting ninth or anything like that," Gaston said. "I think you have to put him somewhere that certainly he's not embarrassed, or you don't just put him so low that he's not getting enough at-bats either. He's a guy that we need. We need him to hit. We need him and Rios to hit."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.