Wells packing punch at right time for Jays
Outfielder posting club-record numbers after opening series
ARLINGTON -- Vernon Wells admitted that the thought crossed his mind. He was standing out in center field at Rangers Ballpark during the eighth inning on Thursday afternoon, daydreaming about belting a game-tying home run after stepping into the batter's box to lead off the ninth.
"I knew I was coming up," Wells said. "Down by one, it'd be great to hit one."
Wishful thinking quickly became reality.
Wells launched a ninth-inning home run, igniting a late rally that helped push the Blue Jays to a 3-1 victory over the Rangers. The significance of the blast went beyond just that, though. It marked the first time in club history that a player opened a season with at least one home run in each of Toronto's first three games.
On Monday, Wells homered in his first at-bat of the season. On Wednesday, the center fielder launched a pair of home runs for his first multi-homer game since Sept. 28, 2008. One was a two-run blast in the fifth inning and the other was a solo shot in the ninth.
"He's hitting everything," Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz said. "Wherever they pitch him, he's hitting it."
Through three games, Wells has collected six hits in 10 at-bats, during which he has collected four home runs, six runs scored and seven RBIs. A year ago, Wells did not reach four home runs until the Blue Jays' 27th game of the season on May 3.
Trailing 1-0 in the ninth inning on Thursday, the Rangers turned to closer Frank Francisco. Wells locked in on a 1-0 splitter, which rocketed off his bat and carried midway up the bleachers above the left-field wall. As he rounded the bases, Wells could not help himself. He smiled wide after watching the baseball disappear into the seats.
"It's cool to hit homers," Wells said. "But I'm not going to hit homers all year long like that, so I'm going to enjoy them while they come."
The roots of Wells' latest run date back to the waning days of Spring Training.
A few days before camp broke, Blue Jays hitting coach Dwayne Murphy pulled Wells aside and asked if he would meet him at the batting cage. Murphy had an idea and Toronto's center fielder was more than willing to go along with it.
"He tells me something and we go and work on it," Wells said on Wednesday. "I'll take as many swings as possible until I can't swing the bat anymore and we'll start over again the next day."
Murphy wanted to work with Wells on a better weight transfer during his swing, adding a slight adjustment to the outfielder's hands in an effort to generate more power. The tweaks were slight, but Wells said he could tell an immediate difference.
"I can tell if I'm late. I can tell if I'm on time," Wells said. "I'll just try to be on time as much as possible."
Helping matters is the fact that Wells' left wrist -- surgically repaired over the offseason to correct cartilage damage -- is feeling strong. Last season, Wells labored through arguably the worst season of his career, hitting .260 with 15 homers and 66 RBIs over 158 games for the Jays.
Manager Cito Gaston is not sure how much the wrist issue affected Wells' production, but there is no doubt the Blue Jays are thrilled that the early indications are that the injury is in the past.
"He never complained last year about it," Gaston said on Wednesday. "Let's just hope he's back. I think if you talk to him, I think he's probably got a little bit more movement right now as far as his hands, so he's getting started a little bit sooner."
Wells is also trying to adopt a more aggressive approach in the batter's box.
"The thing I'm telling myself every time I go up to the plate," Wells said, "is if they're going to get me out, I want them to get me out. I don't want to make my own outs and swing at bad pitches."
Wells pointed to his third at-bat on Thursday, when Texas starter C.J. Wilson fooled the center fielder with a pair of changups, leading to a strikeout with runners on the corners with no outs in the sixth inning. Wells was frustrated with that showing and hoped to make up for it given another chance.
Wells did not disappoint.
"He's been awesome -- just absolutely great," Gaston said. "It's just what we need. Of course, you don't expect him to continue the whole season at that pace. It'd be nice if he could."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.