Manager: 'I thought he looked great'

Updated: March 14, 2004, 10:33 PM ET
Associated Press

PEORIA, Ariz. -- With the exception of watching his third pitch sail out of the ballpark, David Wells was happy with his return to the mound nearly five months after back spasms led to a quick exit from a World Series start.

"Just to get back out there and be pain-free was the main concern," Wells said after making his spring debut for the San Diego Padres in an 8-3, 11-inning loss to the Kansas City Royals on Sunday. "I didn't try to overdo it."

Wells allowed two hits on his first five pitches before settling down. He threw two innings, giving up two runs -- one earned -- then said he felt good physically.

"I wish I could have done that in Game 5," Wells said, referring to being forced out after just one inning in his World Series start for the New York Yankees against Florida on Oct. 23.

"It was something where all you're doing is barely throwing and watching everything fall apart. It's just nice to get out there and be on the competitive side again and go out and do what I've been doing for 23, 24 years," he said.

Wells had back surgery in early December, then signed with his hometown Padres as a free agent on Dec. 31.

The 40-year-old left-hander said his back stiffened up between the first and second innings as he sat in the dugout.

"The first couple of pitches it was a little tight, but then I got through it fine," said Wells, who got plenty of defensive work, with a putout and an assist on consecutive plays to end the 1-2-3 second inning.

He also fielded Matt Stairs' dribbler in front of the plate to start a rundown that caught Carlos Beltran between third and home for the first out of the first inning.

"I went out there and fielded my position pretty well," Wells said. "The only highlight of the day was to get Matt Stairs to sting his hand a little bit."

Padres manager Bruce Bochy was impressed with his new ace.

"He's worked hard to get back out there, with rehabbing the surgery," Bochy said. "I thought he looked great. He was just missing in the first inning and he came back and had a good second inning. He had a lot of action around the mound, covering first, the rundown. For two innings, he got a lot of work in."

Wells allowed a leadoff homer to Aaron Guiel on a 2-0 fastball, then a double to Beltran.

"Behind in the count, getting the ball up, doesn't equal a good outing," Wells said. "I struggled with the curveball a little bit. Then the one I did throw good got belted for a double. I don't know how the hell he hit it. At least it was a good curveball. You've got to tip your cap on that.

"You just try to get your pitches over and just try to get command. I wasn't airing it out, just trying to go out there free and easy trying to make sure everything felt good," he said.

In other Padres news, Reliever Rod Beck hasn't pitched this spring because he's missed time due to a personal problem. Bochy said it's questionable whether Beck will be ready for opening day April 5 at Los Angeles.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press