Wells could return to Pirates as early as Tuesday

Updated: June 17, 2006, 9:07 PM ET
Associated Press

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."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press