Found April 10, 2012 on
Fox Sports West:
MINNEAPOLIS -- Baseball is not always a thinking man's game, and maybe that's why Vernon Wells is already struggling for the Angels. He's 2 for 14, has struck out five times and comes to the ballpark every day unsure if he's in the starting lineup.
Baseball is a game where you're better off reacting -- see a pitch, hit it. Players often like to tinker with their swings and their positioning in the box, but when a 95-mph fastball is heading toward the plate, good hitters let their hands do the work.
Wells is overthinking. On Monday, before the Angels opened their series against the Minnesota Twins at frigid Target Field, manager Mike Scioscia said Wells' early season problems at the plate were more "conceptual" than "mechanical."
"He needs to settle in, and I think less will be more," Scioscia said. "He needs to keep it simple."
Wells went through a winter makeover with his swing and produced encouraging numbers in spring training: a .277 average, three home runs, 13 RBIs in 65 at-bats. But his .143 start to the regular season is reason to wonder if he can recover from a miserable 2011 in which he batted .218.
Scioscia met briefly with Wells before Monday's game, after which the manager said he believed Wells feels pressure to put last season behind him. "Absolutely," Scioscia said.
Wells, asked about the meeting after the Angels' 5-1 victory, said he preferred to keep the conversation private. But he refused to acknowledge any worries about his start.
"After 14 at-bats?" he asked. That's reasonable enough.
Still, Scioscia's primary point -- that Wells needs to think in simple terms when he's at the plate -- should not be taken lightly. No matter what he did to revamp his swing or his approach in the offseason, Wells still needs to see the ball and hit it.
"There's no doubt about Vernon's passion," Scioscia said. "He understands how much we need him. There are some things players do from time to time to overcompensate for things they're trying to correct. Vernon needs to keep it simple. He understands that."
If he does, it's been slow in coming. Wells hit a home run Sunday against the Kansas City Royals, but he also came to bat on four other occasions with runners in scoring position and went hitless.
On Monday, he was replaced in left field by Bobby Abreu, whose left-handed bat gave Scioscia an opportunity to start him against right-hander Nick Blackburn. Abreu went 1 for 2 with a walk and drove in a first-inning run with an opposite-field double. In his other start last Saturday, he had an RBI double and a sacrifice fly against the Royals.
This spring, Scioscia promised to give Abreu about 400 plate appearances to keep him happy and engaged, although he offered no specific role. To his credit, Abreu has been a good soldier so far.
"We were very encouraged by Bobby's last 10 at-bats in spring, and he's having good at-bats right now starting off the season," Scioscia said. "Nothing's changed from what we proposed. It's going to give us a chance to match up and give guys a chance to get some rest. We have to keep that depth moving forward."
Scioscia isn't prepared to put Abreu in the lineup regularly, or even use Wells and Abreu in a rotation, but he talked about the importance of finding a good chemistry and getting everyone enough at-bats to feel a flow for the game.
He clearly isn't giving up on Wells -- not yet -- nor is Wells conceding his early season struggles.
"It's just a matter of getting balls in the zone and doing what you're supposed to with them," he said. "If you're a little bit overanxious, you're not going to have good at-bats. That's hitting 101."
It's possible his meeting with Scioscia will have an impact, although he came in as a late-game defensive replacement for Abreu and struck out in the eighth.
In time, the Angels will find out if Wells can put into practice what he heard from Scioscia. If he can't, there's always Abreu.
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