He has come a long way to pursue his major league dream. And so far it is going quite well for 19-year-old left-handed pitcher Alexander Wells from Newcastle, Australia.
Signed by the Orioles last Aug. 29 for $300,000, Wells was the opening night starter for short season Single-A Aberdeen. So far he has pitched to an ERA of 1.64 over his first two professional starts.
Wells’ twin brother Lachlan Wells is also in pro ball and was the first of the duo to sign a pro contract. The Minnesota Twins signed him in August of 2014 and a year later the O’s added Alexander. Yes, the Twins missed out on signing Aussie twins.
I asked Alexander Wells yesterday at Ripken Stadium how he came to play and like the sport of baseball in Australia.
“I saw it on TV one day when I was nine and said to my Mom, ‘I want to try that and give it a go,’” Wells said. “Signed up for the season and never stopped playing since. I love this game.
“I live close to the local team near my home, so just signed up for that team. Sometimes it is hard to find a league to play. But baseball is getting bigger in Australia. It’s growing and it’s good to see that.”
How did the O’s find and sign Wells so far away from home?
“We have an Australian baseball academy which runs for three weeks on the gulf coast of Australia,” Wells said. “They saw me there and also at the Junior National championships in Australia. Brett Ward was the scout that followed me closely.”
After spending a few months pitching earlier this season at extended spring training, Wells headed north with Aberdeen. He is 1-1 with a 1.64 ERA. Over 11 innings he has allowed 11 hits with two runs on one walk and seven strikeouts. Wells gave up two runs in five innings on opening night at Hudson Valley. He pitched six scoreless innings Wednesday night in Aberdeen’s home opening 7-0 win against Auburn.
“It’s going pretty well, really enjoying it out there,” Wells said. “Been amazing so far. I was a little nervous in both outings, but put the nerves away and got the job done.”
Aberdeen manager Luis Pujols said Wells has been solid through these initial starts. His fastball has been sitting in the 90-91 mph range.
“He has shown pretty good command of his fastball,” Pujols said. “They have not hit many balls hard off him so far. I like his stuff. I joked with him that Minnesota signed his twin brother and I told him we got the best one.
“He’s got a fastball, breaking ball and changeup. Seems like he knows how to pitch, how to compete. He likes to study the game and he’s kind of mature for his age.”
Wells said he appreciates the instruction he has gotten on the O’s farm.
“They’ve helped me a lot with pounding the strikezone on the inside part of the plate,” he said. “Which has been successful in the two outings I’ve had and down in Florida at extended spring training. Just working both sides of the plate and trying to keep the walks down which has been a key for me.”
Wells is part of an Aberdeen roster that features a heavy international flavor:
* Pitcher Dariel Delgado is from Cuba
* Pitcher Yi-Hsiang Lin is from Taiwan
* Pitcher Travis Seabrooke and catcher Chris Shaw are from Canada
* Pitcher Jeong-Hyeon Yoon is from South Korea
* Catcher Daniel Fajardo and infielder Guillermo Salas are from Venezuela
* Infielder Carlos Diaz is from Mexico
* Infielder Ronarsy Ledesma and outfielder Daniel Franco are from the Dominican Republic
* Infielder Kirvin Moesquit is from Curacao
“There are players from a few different countries in the clubhouse. We certainly have a few different languages thrown around,” Wells said.