4 things to know about O's new RHP Wells

December 22nd, 2020

In selecting and Tyler Wells in the Rule 5 Draft earlier this month, the Orioles took fliers on two intriguing right-handers for the second straight year. They also added two pitchers with compelling backstories.

Upon arriving from the Reds, Sceroler already made headlines as the nephew and pitching pupil of former O’s righty Ben McDonald. Wells won’t touch down in Sarasota this spring sporting such famous bloodlines. And he and Sceroler will both need to compete to earn spots on the Opening Day roster and fulfill their service time requirements as Rule 5 Draft picks.

But it only took Wells one Zoom call to establish himself in another way: as one of the more inquisitive, forthcoming and well-spoken players the Orioles have had in years. Here are a few things we’ve learned already about the O’s new righty:

1. Baseball means everything to him

To Wells, baseball is more than just a profession. It’s been a sanctuary for him since childhood, when his mother died of cancer at the age of four. These days, Wells is still such a baseball junkie he listens to the Rule 5 Draft every year on his own, even when he wasn’t a selection candidate.

The reason: “During this time of year, there really isn’t a whole lot of baseball stuff going on and I just like being in the know.”

“I genuinely love baseball and I love playing it, I love the competitiveness of it,” Wells said. “My love for baseball really extends back from whenever my mother passed away. Obviously, my entire family was struggling during that time. As time kind of went on, I didn’t really have much of an outlet for a lot of the stress that my family was under as well as what I was under. Baseball was kind of that outlet. I really enjoyed being around the baseball field, being able to play the game of baseball and compete. It also took my mind away from the challenges that I faced in my life.”

Wells eventually grew into a 16th-round pick of the Twins in 2016, reaching Double-A two years later despite missing time to injuries and concerns over his conditioning. It was around this time Wells met one of his biggest influences, a reliever with Oriole ties: LaTroy Hawkins.

2. He calls LaTroy Hawkins a mentor

Hawkins is a longtime MLB reliever and current Twins special assistant. He spent one season (2006) of his 21-year career with the Orioles, but nine with the Twins, and now serves as an important voice for the organization’s young pitchers.

“He really took me under his wing and really kind of made me understand I had the ability to do it,” Wells said. "I had a very good 2017 season with the exception [that] I had some injuries, and a lot of that had to do with my body, my strength, my diet. And he really pushed me to hone in on all of those things. My strength, diet plan and just getting my body into peak physical condition going into next year."

Standing 6-foot-8, Wells is physically imposing enough for some Orioles evaluators to describe him as a “monster.” But durability became a concern with Wells pushing 300 pounds. Hawkins knows something about blending intimidating mound presence with longevity; his 1,042 career games rank 10th most all-time.

“That offseason, I ended up losing about 60 pounds and really gathered a lot of strength,” Wells said. “The next time I saw him, he was like, ‘That’s what I’m talking about.’ Being able to get confidence from a guy who’s pitched 20 years in the big leagues, that was a real confidence booster for me.”

3. He’s overcome adversity

Hawkins’ lessons hit home for Wells in 2018, when he underwent Tommy John surgery. Now fully healthy, Wells was medically cleared in September and expects to report to Spring Training without limitations. He’ll do so having not thrown a competitive pitch in roughly two years, a time period he summarized as “a roller coaster of emotions, a lot of heartache, and a lot of great things.”

The surgery wiped out Wells’ prospect status (he’s now 26, and projects as more of a reliever), but the cancellation of the 2020 Minor League season allowed him to recover fully while limiting loss in development time. The O’s hope that will make the potential jump from Double-A to the Majors more manageable.

“I was put into a lot of difficult situations that tested my mind and I would never trade those for the world, because mentally, they created a lot of resilience in me,” Wells said. “If I can go through a lot of difficult situations my entire life, then I think I have the ability to go through almost anything and be able to thrive in any environment.”

4. More than just a thrower, he’s a thinker

When they were with the Astros last decade, several prominent members of the Orioles front office were credited with transferring the concept of “growth mindset” from the corporate world into the baseball lexicon. In Baltimore, they’ve targeted analytical, data-receptive players (and instructors) who fit that mold. Wells certainly does. That should make him a fine fit with new pitching coach Chris Holt and within the O’s budding culture at large.

“I’m always genuinely curious about what’s going on in the baseball world,” Wells said. “I just like knowing things. I like knowing the process of things. I like knowing what people go through to get to where they are.”