Randy Wells is not taking anything for granted entering his first full season as a Chicago Cubs starting pitcher. The likeable Belleview, Ill., native will get the first Cactus League start as the Cubs open their spring training schedule against the Oakland Athletics in Mesa on Thursday.
Wells was philosophical about going into the 2010 season.
"A lot of guys do it one season," Wells said. "To me it's not about one season, it's about how you do it your whole career. In my mind you don't define your career by one season. You define it by grinding out every day. Your work ethic is the most important thing as far as I'm concerned. After that, gaining the respect of your teammates is essential."
At age 27, Wells doesn't believe he has accomplished anything in baseball other than getting another chance to pitch with the Cubs. It hasn't been an easy road for him. Wells was a 38th-round draft pick in 2002. The Cubs also failed to protect him in the 2007 Rule 5 Draft when he was picked up by the Toronto Blue Jays. During that season, Wells was returned to the Cubs. Going into 2010, Wells said that he was looking to add to his repertoire or at least refine some of his pitching skills.
Wells has picked the brain of future Hall of Famer Greg Maddux, now a special assistant to general manager Jim Hendry.
"Greg talked to me about never throwing a hitter the same stuff in spring training that you're going to try to get him out with during the season," Wells said. "He teaches that you always want to have that one pitch that the hitter hasn't seen that you can get him out with."
Going into his sophomore season there are plenty of people in the game that still think Wells has plenty to prove as far as becoming an established big-league starter. But the mentally-tough Wells doesn't believe in accepting any extra external pressure.
"To me there wasn't a whole lot of pressure last year," Wells said. "I was given an opportunity, and on a daily basis I was trying to show [manager] Lou [Piniella] and trying to show [pitching coach] Larry [Rothschild] and the front office that I belong here.
"I guess I'll give you a PG version of my pitching philsophy: 'Here it is, this is everything I have to offer so screw it.' It's either good enough or it's not. That's really the story of my stuff. My game is pretty simple: Throw good strikes, sink the ball and try to get the hitters to hit it on the ground. If I can do that on a given day, I have a pretty good chance of being successful."
Wells tied Ted Lilly for the most wins by a Cubs starter last season with 12.
"We have fun with it. Ted and I have a little wager going this season," Wells said. "I've learned a lot about being a professional by watching Teddy, [Ryan] Dempster, Derrick Lee and other teammates do things the right way. That's my goal."
Wells went on to talk about his philosophy, getting a tweak from Maddux.
"Greg has talked to me about thinking what you want to throw a hitter two pitches ahead," Wells said. "He told me that if you can do that the game will slow down at your pace and you're controlling what's happening."
Wells is looking forward to having another successful season with the Cubs, but he said that he understand what happens to him now when he does get in trouble on the mound.
"When I've had a problem out there in the past the hampster starts spinning in my head, and I forget about being in control," Wells said. "At that point I try to overpower the next hitter, and that's not me. For me to be a consistent pitcher in the majors, I've got to slow it down and get myself under control."