Wells wishes Blue Jays nothing but the best

Wells wishes Blue Jays nothing but the best

Wells wishes Blue Jays nothing but the best
TORONTO -- Almost three months have passed since Vernon Wells said an emotional goodbye to the city of Toronto.

Wells was sent packing to the Angels by the only organization he had ever known during a shocking transaction on Jan. 21. At the time, he couldn't help but break down while reflecting on his career in a Blue Jays uniform.

A lot has changed since then, though. The 32-year-old has gone through an entire Spring Training and started the regular season surrounded by fresh faces and a new logo on his chest.

"It was hard just having conversations with guys that you kind of watched grow up and been a part of their lives," Wells said prior to Friday night's game against Toronto. "Once Spring Training started it took a couple of days to get used to it, but now it's like I've been here for awhile.

"But, obviously, looking across the field and seeing my former teammates, it will set me back a couple of days, but I'll get used to it after the first inning."

Saying goodbye to the Blue Jays after the offseason trade was one of the most difficult things Wells has had to do during his professional career. He came up through the club's Minor League system and spent the first 12 years of his career in Toronto.

Whenever a player gets dealt for the first time in his career, it comes as a bit of a culture shock. It was no different for Wells, but that doesn't mean he holds any hard feelings towards his former club.

The native of Texas remains gracious and complimentary of his time in Toronto. He praised general manager Alex Anthopoulos for the way negotiations were handled and said he understood the trade had a lot to do with the four years and $86 million remaining on his contract.

"I completely understand where he's coming from and the situation that was put in front of him," said Wells, who went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts against the Blue Jays. "That was the main reason this deal went down -- was because it gives him the flexibility to do some different things.

"I wish for nothing but the best. ... They're in a different division, I'd love to see them beat the Red Sox and Yankees."

In an ironic twist, Wells' first home game with the Halos came Friday night against his former club. As weird as that experience was for Wells, it was equally as difficult for his old teammates.

Toronto's No. 1 starter, Ricky Romero, ran into Wells in the weight room prior to the game. Romero couldn't help but take a step back and check out Wells' new look.

"That's the first thing I told him, 'Man, you look weird in all red,'" Romero said with a laugh. "It's a little weird, but it's part of the business.

"He was the face of the franchise here for such a long time, all of us in this clubhouse have the utmost respect for him, not only on the field, but off the field, as well. Now he's our enemy. Once we step between those lines we want to beat him."

Wells left Toronto ranked second all-time in hits (1,529), doubles (339), home runs (223), RBIs (813) and total bases (2,597).

It was a successful career, but he now has an opportunity to start fresh with the Angels -- a team looking to find its way back into the playoffs after a disappointing 80-win 2010 season.

So far, that new beginning hasn't exactly gone as planned. Wells is hitting just .097 (3-for-31) with one extra-base hit and one RBI in seven games. Despite the early struggles, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he isn't worried.

"Vernon hasn't hit his stride," Scioscia said. "I think he's definitely pressing a little bit. There's a lot of baseball left. He's going to hit his stride and have a good year for us. He's just missing some pitches.

"He sees a lot of talent on the field and he knows how important he is. He wants it to happen yesterday. He's not in a comfort zone in the [batter's] box yet. He wants to contribute, and he will."

Wells' departure created a void in the lineup, but it also opened the door for Toronto to build a more versatile squad than in years past. That hasn't gone unnoticed by slugger Jose Bautista.

"It also allowed Alex to go out and find guys like Rajai Davis and Juan Rivera that otherwise never would have made it to this team," Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista said.

"It's ... different style of players that we've been getting lately, it's not just the power hitter. Everybody has noticed in our style of play."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.