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Wells could return to Pirates as early as Tuesday

PITTSBURGH -- Kip Wells was supposed to be out of the
Pittsburgh Pirates' rotation until the All-Star break. He could
return as early as Tuesday.

With right-hander Victor Santos (4-7, 4.83 ERA) bothered by a
split fingernail and blister on his right middle finger, manager
Jim Tracy is weighing whether to start Wells or minor league
left-hander Tom Gorzelanny against the Kansas City Royals.

The Pirates have used only five starting pitchers all season --
Santos, Ian Snell and left-handers Zach Duke, Paul Maholm and
Oliver Perez -- but Santos' injury could change that. Wells, out
since having surgery in March to repair a blocked artery near his
right shoulder, is scheduled to make a third minor league
rehabilitation start Tuesday for Triple-A Indianapolis.

"We'll find out where Victor's at, and if it's not too good and
we have to go in a different direction, then obviously we have some
options available," Tracy said Saturday. "We have a guy that's
awfully good right now in the minors, and we would not be against
moving Kip Wells into that spot because of the performances he's
given. We didn't have those options a month ago."

Wells led the majors in losses while going 8-18 last season, but
the Pirates still chose to sign him to a $4.15 million contract for
this season partly because of his durability. Wells is 13-25 over
the last two seasons, but has averaged 170 innings since 2001 for
the White Sox and Pirates.

Wells allowed three runs and nine hits in 13 1/3 innings in his
two minor league starts, one in Single A and the other in Double A.

"I'm sure I could go to Indianapolis and try to sharpen a few
more things and maybe throw 10 more pitches," Wells said. "But
we'll assess where I fit in, how the rotation works out and what
they see me needing to do."

Gorzelanny is an option after making his major league debut last
season, appearing in three late-season games. He is 4-5 at
Indianapolis, but has a league-leading 86 strikeouts while walking
24.

Santos' record isn't good, but the Pirates have been pleased
with his recent work. He has permitted more than two runs only once
in his last five starts after going 4-13 for Milwaukee last season.

"In the past, he would definitely be termed a 100 percent
breaking ball pitcher, a guy who pitches completely around his
fastball -- who throws a fastball so he can throw his next breaking
ball for a strike," Tracy said. "His perspective is different and
he's using all of his pitches now. And he's been emphatically
encouraged that he throw them all for strikes."