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Wells makes impressive debut in WBC '17

Pitching for Australia, Twins prospect rises to the occasion
Special to MLB.com

TOKYO -- The Tokyo Dome is a long way from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that's for sure.

And it's a long way from Beloit, Burlington and all those other Midwest League towns Lachlan Wells pitched in last season for the Twins' Class A team, too. Facing the Bowling Green Hot Rods might have seemed a pretty good challenge for a 20-year-old kid from Australia, but it's nothing like walking into a noisy Tokyo Dome with the fans singing for their Samurai Japan heroes.

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TOKYO -- The Tokyo Dome is a long way from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, that's for sure.

And it's a long way from Beloit, Burlington and all those other Midwest League towns Lachlan Wells pitched in last season for the Twins' Class A team, too. Facing the Bowling Green Hot Rods might have seemed a pretty good challenge for a 20-year-old kid from Australia, but it's nothing like walking into a noisy Tokyo Dome with the fans singing for their Samurai Japan heroes.

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"That's not just the biggest crowd I've ever pitched in front of," Wells said after Australia's 4-1 loss to Japan in the World Baseball Classic on Wednesday. "It's the biggest crowd I could have dreamt of pitching in front of."

Wells, who is ranked the Twins' No. 26 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, made a very impressive debut on the world stage. Wells faced six Japanese batters, all of them veterans, from a lineup that scored 11 runs the night before against Cuba. He retired all six, striking out No. 2 hitter Ryosuke Kikuchi and cleanup man Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh.

:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

"He went into a tough situation," said Australia manager Jon Deeble, who turned to Wells with a 1-0 lead in the fifth inning, with runners at first and third and nobody out. "He wasn't afraid."

Wells wasn't afraid, but he was a bit in awe, at least as he walked onto the field from the bullpen that is under the stands at Tokyo Dome.

"Running out there and taking over for [starter Tim Atherton], I was taking it all in," Wells said. "I was thinking, 'There's a lot more people here than I thought.' Then I said, 'OK, it's time.' Then I wasn't focused on the crowd noise. I was focused on nothing but hitting that glove."

Wells hit it, throwing 14 strikes among his 20 pitches. He hit 91 mph on the radar gun.

"The kid's got a great future," Deeble said. "I think he's going to pitch in the big leagues."

That future will affect how Deeble uses Wells in the tournament. While Deeble admitted there was a temptation to leave Wells in the game longer, he said it wouldn't have been fair.

"We've got to be really careful with him," Deeble said. "He hasn't pitched in games since last summer. We've got to put his future and the Twins ahead of the Australia team."

Wells isn't thinking too much about the future beyond WBC 2017, unless it's about going back to Spring Training in Fort Myers, Fla., and pitching well enough for the Twins to assign him to their Class A Advanced team in the Florida State League.

Already, this winter and spring have been like a dream come true.

"There's nothing better than being able to wear the green and gold [of Australia]," said Wells, whose twin brother Alex (rated the Orioles' No. 17 prospect), is in the designated pitcher pool for Australia. "My goal was to get here. People said it was unrealistic, because I was so young, but I wanted it. When I got the email at the start of February saying I'd made the team, I wanted to get on the plane right away."

Instead, Wells was on a plane from Australia to Florida, for two weeks of preparation at Twins camp. Then he was back on a plane headed halfway around the world to Japan.

There Wells was Wednesday, before a crowd so big he couldn't have imagined it, pitching against some of the best players in the world. And he wasn't afraid.

The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via MLBNetwork.com/watch, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Marlins Park, Tokyo Dome, Gocheok Sky Dome in Seoul, Estadio Charros de Jalisco in Mexico, Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at WorldBaseballClassic.com.

Danny Knobler is a contributor to MLB.com.

Australia, Minnesota Twins