Wells delivers win in O's debut Newcomer rebounds from shaky spring

April 04, 1996|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,SUN STAFF

This has not been an easy spring for David Wells. He got the scare of his life when an irregular heartbeat put him in the hospital during spring training, and he couldn't help but think twice after umpire John McSherry died of a massive heart attack on Opening Day.

Then there was the matter of his uneven spring performance, which left him wondering just what to expect in his Orioles debut.

It turned out just fine. Wells struggled with his control early, but pitched a strong seven innings on the way to a 7-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals. His line -- seven innings five hits, one run, six strikeouts -- was even better than Orioles ace Mike Mussina the day before.

"I was a little nervous after the spring I had," Wells said. "It was a big relief after the last couple of times out."

Not that it went off without a hitch. Wells delivered a typically theatrical performance, stalking around the mound and cursing himself after a bad pitch, arguing with manager Davey Johnson when it came time to remove him from the game. He even took a sharp ground ball off each shin, perhaps as penance for his volatile behavior.

The Orioles will have to wait until today to find out if he came out of it all right. He's going to have a couple of bruises, but that is not expected to keep him from making his next scheduled start on Monday. He didn't seem concerned, but it's probably hard to get too excited about something that minor after what he went through this spring.

Doctors never did figure out exactly why his heart fluttered the way it did, and Wells still has to wonder.

"It was tough," he said. "I didn't know what was going on. I still don't know what the case was. I had to monitor myself. I had to go on a diet for certain things. It's nothing to take lightly. You saw what happened to John McSherry. That could happen to anybody. I'm just glad I got it checked out when I did."

But if that frightening incident was supposed to change his perspective or make him a kinder, gentler pitcher, guess again. He is as intense as ever, and that was very apparent on the way to his first victory as an Oriole. Not even an early six-run lead could calm him down.

"It always looks like I'm going ballistic, but I'm only mad at myself and only for that moment," Wells said. "I put a lot of pressure on myself out there. I'm a competitive person. I say words that I shouldn't say. But it's just for that time. It doesn't carry over. I get frustrated, but it helps me bear down."

Johnson is used to it. He had Wells for the latter part of the 1995 season in Cincinnati and had few complaints about the way the veteran left-hander went about his business on the mound. The decision to pull him after 102 pitches was an obvious one at this point in the season, but Johnson also is used to getting an argument whenever he tries to remove Wells from a game.

"It was a battle getting him out of there," Johnson said. "He didn't want to leave, even though he was over 100 pitches."

Wells won't apologize for that, but he did concede afterward that the decision was the right one. The Orioles hope to see him on the mound 33 more times this season, so there was no reason to extend him with a six-run lead.

"He knows I don't want to come out," Wells said, "but I know it is for the best. I'll argue with him every time, but he knows what's right and I know deep down he's right."

Two down. Three to go. The Orioles have gotten big efforts from Mussina and Wells. Right-hander Scott Erickson is scheduled to take the mound today, with newcomer Kent Mercker and rookie Jimmy Haynes to follow.

"We've got a few more guys to go," Wells said. "After this week, you'll have an idea of what we've got."

Pub Date: 4/04/96

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