It was 9 on Wednesday morning in Australia when Alexander Wells got on a video conference call to speak about his place on the Orioles’ 40-man roster. The Orioles added him on November 20th, a move many didn’t see coming.
The 23-year-old left-hander hasn’t been in the United States since the early days of the pandemic. He went back to Australia along with his twin brother, Lachlan, a pitcher in the Minnesota Twins organization.
“I was able to play catcher with my twin brother,” Wells said. “I was able to throw bullpens to a local catcher and also threw in a couple of scrimmage games that we had going on. I was able to get some type of work in, so it was good.”
Wells wasn’t seen as a surefire candidate for the 40-man roster because he wasn’t at the Bowie alternate site or the Instructional League in Sarasota, Florida.
“It definitely crossed my mind thinking that I didn’t get over there this year,” Wells said. “Had I done enough in the past to be protected? It crossed my mind a little bit, but I tried not to think about it too much, just let it happen.
“To get protected by the Orioles just gave me an extra bit of confidence to know that they trust me enough to go up to the big leagues and go out there and compete with my type of pitching.”
When executive vice president/general manager Mike Elias explained Wells’ addition, he said he was comfortable that he had acceptable ways to train in Australia.
“Guys who wanted to take at-bats came down to the field,” Wells said. “They stood in and took some at-bats. I had guys to throw to, so it wasn’t simulated innings, a lot of just throwing to the catcher and pretending there was a hitter in the box.”
While Covid-19 is again at a frightening stage in the United States, Wells says that’s not the case back home.
“It’s actually pretty good here at the moment,” he said. “Where I live, in my state, we haven’t had a local case of Covid-19 in, I think, 24 days now, so we’re doing pretty good. Restrictions have started to ease. We’re allowed to eat, outdoor dining, indoor dining, a lot of stuff, get back to some kind of normal, which is good.”
In 2017, Wells was named the organization’s top minor league pitcher when he walked just 10 batters in 140 innings and had a 2.38 ERA for Low-A Delmarva. By 2019, Wells moved up to Bowie, where he was 8-6 with a 2.95 ERA. In his minor league career, he’s averaged just over one walk per nine innings.
During 2019, Wells began throwing a slider with some success.
“It’s definitely a keeper,” Wells said. “I’ve continued to work with [Director of Pitching] Chris Holt whenever I can with it. I’m just going to get more confidence in throwing it to hitters, and once I do that, it’s going to be a very handy pitch for me in the future.”
Wells doesn’t know where he’ll begin the 2021 season. The Orioles have yet to announce their minor league affiliates.
“I think it’s going to be a little bit different with the global pandemic and the setbacks that we didn’t play this year,” he said. “It’s going to be a bit of a challenge, but I’m sure we’ll get through it.”
Wells has started 86 games in the minor leagues and isn’t concerned about the lost season.
“I don’t think it’s going to do too much damage or hurt me,” he said. “I was consistently throwing to live hitters over here, consistently throwing upwards of three innings … four-inning stints when I was going to the mound.
“I think I’ve thrown a decent amount of innings where that’s not going to be an issue for me. I feel like I can just go to spring training and have a normal spring training and build up pretty good.”
Spring training is scheduled to begin on February 15th, and Wells said that he doesn’t foresee any issues coming from Australia to the States because he’s on a work visa.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if I have to do a quarantine stint when I first get over there,” he said.
Wells’ morning was late afternoon on the East Coast. Australia is 16 hours ahead of Eastern Time, something his baseball buddies in the States forget.
“I caught up with a couple of guys,” he said. “I called them when it was about midnight here a couple of times, or a couple of guys called me mid-morning here, which is late afternoon/early evening. The time difference, I think, most of my teammates have figured out by now. I’ve been around them for a while.
“If they call me early in the morning, and I don’t answer, I think they know why. I’m still asleep.”
Arbitration update: According to a report by MLB.com, catcher Pedro Severino agreed to a one-year, $1.85 million contract, avoiding arbitration. The Orioles have six other players who must be offered contracts by 8 p.m. Wednesday — first baseman/outfielder Trey Mancini, outfielder Anthony Santander, infielders Hanser Alberto, Yolmer Sanchez and Pat Valaika and right-handed pitcher Shawn Armstrong.