After dropping weight, Bevo reliever hopes to impress Padres
by: , WELLS

Jared Wells left Portland last September feeling pretty good about himself, having found a role as a reliever in the San Diego Padres' organization.

Then again, Wells looked at himself in the mirror and did not like what he saw. He had finished with seven consecutive saves on the mound for the Beavers -and gained about 30 pounds off the field, thanks to late-night meals and fast food.

Wells shed the excess baggage in the offseason by changing his diet, and he has dedicated himself to not stopping at the drive-thru this year in Portland.

'During the season, it's tough to eat right, but I'll try to monitor what I eat,' says the 6-4 Wells, now 200 pounds, who returns as a closer in his third tour of duty in Portland.

The Beavers open their 144-game schedule at 7 p.m. Thursday at PGE Park against Fresno.

Wells, 26, had a good spring training and hopes to land a spot in the Padre bullpen eventually. And the big right-hander could still start, which he did before struggling with his control at the Triple-A level. Beset with a hamstring injury, Wells went 2-9 with a 7.27 ERA in 15 starts at Portland in 2006; then, he went 1-6 in his first 10 starts last year.

But after the Padres switched him to closer, he blossomed. In 37 bullpen appearances for Portland, Wells went 2-1 with nine saves and a 2.93 ERA.

He won't be pushing Trevor Hoffman out of the Padres' closer role anytime soon, but Wells has put himself back into San Diego's good graces.

'He's settling in where he's comfortable,' says Grady Fuson, San Diego's vice president for scouting and player development.

Wells remains positive. After all, he says, 'honestly, I never in my life thought I'd be in this position.'

From Brazoria, Texas, outside of Houston, Wells chose to play quarterback in college and was a starter at East Texas Baptist, an NCAA Division III school in Marshall, Texas. In a game as a freshman, Wells got sacked, and all four ligaments in his right knee ripped apart.

After surgery, he quit football and pursued baseball. But his speed wasn't the same to play outfield. While rehabbing, he attended a tryout for an independent baseball team, begging for a look as a pitcher.

He wound up in junior college, playing at Tyler and San Jacinto in Texas. The Padres drafted him in 2002, and he signed the next year.

Wells made pitching stops at Eugene, Fort Wayne (Ind.) and Lake Elsinore (Calif.), and landed on San Diego's radar by going 13-8 with a 3.68 ERA at Lake Elsinore and Class AA Mobile (Ala.) in 2005. He was a Class AA all-star in 2006.

Looking to take the next step, Wells got to meet a famous pitcher for help. He and Roger Clemens share the same agent, and Wells visited Clemens at his Houston home before spring training 2007.

Wells went over the pitcher's workout, which, in hindsight, is interesting, with Clemens embroiled in controversy over alleged steroid use.

Clemens imparted some wisdom to Wells:

'This game is about failure,' Wells says. 'If you're going to fail, it's how you recover from it. I'm doing pretty good with it.'

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Next: Portland Beavers opens the Pacific Coast League season at 7 p.m. Thursday - the eight-game homestand at PGE Park has four games against Fresno and four against Sacramento.

• The Beavers roster:

Pitchers - Paul Abraham, Mike Adams, Adam Bass, Kevin Cameron, Shawn Estes, Josh Geer, Dirk Hayhurst, Wade LeBlanc, Arturo Lopez, Cesar Ramos, Jared Wells and Mauro Zarate

Catchers - Luke Carlin and Nick Hundley

Infielders - Matt Antonelli (2B), Edgar Gonzalez, Marshall McDougall, Brian Myrow (1B), Oscar Robles, Luis Rodriguez, and Craig Stansberry

Outfielders - Chip Ambres (RF), Chase Headley (LF) and Will Venable (CF)

• Grady Fuson, San Diego's vice president for scouting and player development, says Stansberry, Gonzalez and McDougall also will play some outfield. Rodriguez and Robles will get most of the starts at shortstop.

• Expected starter John Hudgins (elbow) will stay at extended spring training, replaced by Lopez, whom the Padres brought back from Mexico. Major league veteran Estes also will make a few starts as the Padres evaluate his pitching ability.

• Fuson says the Padres want Venable to play center field all year, whether here or at Class AA San Antonio.

- Jason Vondersmith

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