Wells wondered whether O’s would put him on 40-man roster

The Orioles didn’t need to remove pitcher Alexander Wells from his home in Australia and dump him into the 60-man player pool over the summer. They were fine with excluding him from the fall instructional league.

As executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias said a few weeks ago, Wells had “a really good setup” that enabled the team to avoid the hassles of international travel during a pandemic.

Wells, a native of Newcastle, was placed on the 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft and he’ll likely play winter ball before he reports to spring training in February. Otherwise, he can stick to a routine that advanced his development at age 23.

There were games of catch with his twin brother, Lachlan, who’s in the Twins organization and also returned home after the shutdown. Wells found a local catcher to pair with in bullpen sessions and simulated innings, and he faced hitters in a couple of scrimmages.

“I was able to get some type of work in, so it was good,” he said yesterday in a Zoom conference call with the media.

“Guys who wanted to take at-bats, they’d come down to the field and they stood in and took some at-bats. I had guys to throw to, so it wasn’t just simulated innings and a lot of just throwing to the catcher and pretending there was a hitter in the box. So it was good like that.”

Alex-Wells-Futures-Game-sidebar.jpgWells was 8-6 with a 2.95 ERA and a 1.070 WHIP in 24 starts last year with Double-A Bowie and he’s averaged 1.4 walks per nine innings in four minor league seasons. Elias says the left-hander has flown “a little bit under the radar,” though recognition came with his selection in 2017 as the organization’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year.

Elias didn’t want to risk a team selecting Wells in the Rule 5 draft. Meanwhile, Wells had no idea whether he’d be protected and wondered if feet planted on home soil would prevent him from moving to the 40-man.

“Yeah, it definitely crossed my mind, thinking I didn’t get over there this year and had I done enough in the past to be protected. It crossed my mind a little bit, but I tried not to think about it too much and just let it happen,” Wells said.

“Getting protected by the Orioles just gives me an extra bit of confidence to know that they trust me enough to go up to the big leagues and compete with my type of pitching. It gives me a lot more confidence.”

Fortunately for Wells, pandemic life doesn’t mimic what his teammates are experiencing in the U.S.

“It’s actually pretty good here at the moment,” he said. “Where I live, in my state, we haven’t had a case of COVID-19 in, I think, 24 days now, so we’re doing pretty good. Restrictions have started to ease. We’re allowed to eat in indoor dining. A lot of stuff to get back to some kind of a normal here, which is good.”

Wells isn’t concerned about getting to Florida, where pitchers and catchers must report to the Ed Smith Stadium complex by Feb. 16. He doesn’t anticipate any complications.

“I haven’t really thought about it too much,” he said. “I think the Australian government is only letting people travel if they are going to another country for work purposes and baseball is a job. I don’t see an issue with not being able to go next year to spring training, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I have to do a quarantine stint when I first get over there. I’m not too sure.”

A best-case scenario gets Wells into Sarasota for a full spring training, followed by a minor league season that begins with him in Triple-A Norfolk’s rotation.

“I definitely thought about what the season could look like next year,” he said. “I think it’s going to be a little bit different with the global pandemic and the setbacks that we didn’t play this year. It’s going to be a bit of a challenge, but I’m sure we’ll get through it.”

Though he didn’t make any starts in 2020, Wells said he built up to four innings on a mound in Australia and there shouldn’t be any restrictions with jumping right back into a starting role.

“I think I’ve thrown at least an amount of innings to that not being an issue for me,” he said. “I feel like I can just have a normal spring training and build up pretty good.”

And finally get back on the same clock as his teammates.

“I caught up with a couple guys,” he said. “I might have called them when it was about midnight here a couple times or a couple guys would call me mid-morning here, which is mid-afternoon, early evening there. The time difference, I think most of my teammates have figured it out by now. I’ve been around them for a while, so if they call me early in the morning and I don’t answer, I think they know why. I’m still asleep.

“It was good to catch up with a couple of them and see how they’re doing and how the pandemic’s going with them and how it’s going for me. How we’re getting our work in and how we’re feeling and stuff like that. It was good.”

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