Randy Wells on his breakout season
Cubs right-hander enjoyed success as a rookie in 2009
Right-hander Randy Wells won 12 games for the Cubs in 2009 despite beginning the season at Triple A. His 12 victories last year were the most by a Cubs rookie since Kerry Wood and Wells' 3.05 ERA was lowest among Cubs' starters, who finished second in the National League in '09 in both strikeouts and quality starts. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Wells, who pitched six shutout innings in his season debut at Atlanta last week, recently answered some questions from MLBPLAYERS.com.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You enjoyed a breakout season last year at age 27. Can you talk about your baseball journey and the success of that rookie season?
Wells: You know, you have to have the drive to improve each year that goes by. For a while there I didn't think I was going to make the Major Leagues. I was ready to hang them up. I thought that I was pitching well but really wasn't catching any breaks. I was debating whether this was going to work for me. I was getting up there in age a bit and wasn't sure if I wanted to spend a long time in the Minor Leagues. When I finally made it to the Major Leagues, it felt as thought the weight of the world had been lifted off my shoulders.
MLBPLAYERS.com: What helped to make the year remarkable was that you started the season in the Minors. How did it feel at the end of the year to be considered such an integral part of your club's rotation?
Wells: It's great company. I think being around guys like Ted Lilly, Ryan Dempster and Carlos Zambrano has only helped me. I had been in camp with those guys for two years, and every guy in this clubhouse is someone you can learn from. I always try to pick their brain. These guys have been through it. It's not always about skill level or how fast you can throw a baseball. It's about having the guts, the tenacity and the heart to not be afraid of anything out there.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You originally broke into pro ball as a catcher. What was the toughest adjustment for you in transitioning from a catcher to a pitcher?
Wells: The cliché 'Rome wasn't built in a day' is very true. It was a tough decision for me. I loved catching, and I still do. I think once I got the pitching mechanics down and had a spot on the team, it was hard to be patient with myself. The hardships and failures came, and I had to tell myself that eventually it would all fall into place. I realized that I wasn't learning to pitch and play against guys in high school. Rather I was doing it in pro ball. When I made mistakes, these guys, professionals, were going to make me pay. It was hard to step back and allow myself to make the mistake and learn from them.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How would you describe yourself as a hitter before you converted to a pitcher?
Wells: In college, I was a pretty good hitter. I never really had a chance to swing a wood bat until I was in pro ball. It was an adjustment. I think playing time played a big factor in that. I wasn't getting consistent at-bats and reps. I really wasn't able to make the adjustment at the pro level.
MLBPLAYERS.com: How does your experience as a catcher help you as a pitcher?
Wells: I learned as a catcher that even if a guy has a 95 mile-per-hour fastball, that if it is right down the middle it can get turned around pretty quickly. But if you hit the black, you can be pretty unhittable. It isn't an exact science, but if you can consistently put good pitches in great spots, you are going to have success a majority of the time. A pitcher doesn't have to have electric stuff. Rather, you learn that you can be just as good if you learn to hone your craft and repeating yourself and hit your spot on a consistent basis.
MLBPLAYERS.com: As a pitcher you hear a lot about mound presence. How do you define that?
Wells: Mound presence to me is showing no fear. Whether you're getting knocked around or you're dealing, you have to have the same demeanor. I think you never show the other team your emotions. They can smell fear. A bad game can lead to bad body language. You need to keep your focus and stay calm. You can't let the little things bother you, and when you're going well, you can't get too lackadaisical. Never be afraid to stare down the best hitters in the game. Never be afraid of the results. Never be afraid to lose with your best pitch.
MLBPLAYERS.com: You play for the Chicago Cubs and you drew up in Belleville, Ill. How do you describe your hometown?
Wells: It's a small, big town. It's got about 42,000 people living there. It's a really nice, quiet town where everybody knows everyone. Growing up there was awesome. It's close to the big city -- St. Louis -- but it still maintains its country feel. It's a good place to grow up. I don't think Belleville is really famous for anything in particular. We have a beautiful fountain on Main Street. I'm also a big fan of Demo's Sports Bar.
MLBPLAYERS.com: Is it true that your dad is such a die-hard Cardinals fan that he refused to put on a Cubs jersey until you made this team?
Wells: My grandmother, dad and brother all worked for the Cardinals at some point. That area has a large Cardinal fan base. The Cubs are not well liked there. I think my dad finally got my grandmother one of my jerseys, and she wore it to church. I know it was tough for my dad to wear that Cubs jersey, but me being on the team made it much easier.
MLBPLAYERS.com: When you were 5-foot-9 in high school, could you have then imagined being a professional athlete?
Wells: Growing up in such an athletic family I always knew, or at least hoped, that I would get a growth spurt at some point. The law of averages was in my favor. I grew up in a family where sports were a top priority. Education and values were always stressed with us, but the fundamentals of sports were huge. I had great role models in my father and brothers. No matter what was going on around me, I always had my family and my sports. Having a brother who played baseball in college and professionally helped me get an inside glimpse into what it took to be successful.
MLBPLAYERS.com: In high school, you got a tattoo of a bulldog. Can you talk about your love of that type of animal?
Wells: I have an English Bulldog. Her name is Fergie [of the Black Eyed Peas]. She is named after the singer. She stays back home during the baseball season. I have had her for more than two years and I always have loved English Bulldogs. I think they're pretty cool. I always wanted one, and once I started making enough money, I got one.
Jeff Moeller is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.