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Wells is a started pitcher

He's in good spirits after his spring debut

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- The give and take with fans always has been one of the fun parts of baseball for David Wells. Making his first appearance in a Red Sox uniform, Wells threw 28 pitches in two innings (20 strikes) against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays -- all the while keeping his ears open for the best lines.

"Somebody called me Jody Reed today," said Wells, who like the former Sox infielder wears No. 3. "I got a chuckle out of that.

"I haven't seen Jody in years. He was a good player while he was here in Boston, but I think there's a great size difference."

Wells was almost a scratch when he reported in the morning with the Curt Schilling Flu. But he got through it, throwing strikes free and easy.

"I felt like crap," Wells said. "I got the Schilling funk. Whatever is going around. I came to the park today, question mark. I really didn't feel too good.

"But I got some work done and felt I was ready to go. Plus, the adrenaline was running for my first outing. I threw a good bullpen, so I figured, you know what? Should be a good game.

"My pitches, I threw them all warming up and they were right there. I just went out and was loosey and goosey and threw strikes."

The 41-year-old lefthander has been allowed to prepare at his own pace. He has thrown side sessions and long-tossed and says he needs no more than 12-15 innings to prepare himself for a possible Opening Day start, since Schilling may not be ready.

"Until they tell me first-hand that's going to happen, I don't have any problems with it," Wells said of pitching Opening Day against one of his former teams, the Yankees. "I don't mind taking the ball no matter what.

"First game this season, it's going to be a big game. Coming in as the world champions, and New York is pretty bitter about what happened last year. They were up, 3-0. I wasn't a part of that. It's just going to make things difficult."

Wells threw six pitches to four batters in the first inning. He was especially happy to throw an effective 2-and-0 breaking pitch to Carl Crawford that "buckled him." Wells had problems with his curve in side sessions, but in his last batting practice started to feel his release point again.

Wells allowed a triple that drifted over Johnny Damon's head in the second, which led to a run, and a sharp double down the left-field line to Toby Hall, who scored on a hit to third base that Bill Mueller couldn't stop and then threw errantly to first.

Mueller, Foulke play
Two other spring debuts: Mueller started at third and Keith Foulke worked a 1-2-3 inning.

Manager Terry Francona said Mueller was so excited about playing that he "was in full uni at 8:30 this morning." Mueller said he felt no ill effects from the arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and plans to play two days and rest one until he proves to himself and the medical staff he can go every day.

"I just wanted to get it started and get it going," said Mueller, who went 1 for 2 and scored a run in a 6-4 loss to the Devil Rays.

Mueller, who had a scope on the same knee during the season last year, said he's been very conservative in his return.

"Everybody thought I'd have a problem with the left knee, but that knee is great," he said. "So that leaves me very optimistic on the fact my right knee will comply. That's why I've been so conservative because my goal is to play the most games I've ever played. And to prove to myself that I can go out there every day and play and produce and be productive.

"Unfortunately I don't have any hobbies. This is it. I'm pretty boring. I put everything I have into the game. I feel I can accomplish that. This year I'm a little bit more vocal about it."

Foulke, meanwhile, said he feels much stronger than he did a year ago when he suffered through a calf injury in training camp. No worries this year. He threw 14 pitches and plans on working a lot, perhaps even throwing innings on the side.

Moving timetable
Francona said Schilling will throw a side session today and batting practice Wednesday before taking off for the congressional hearings Thursday. "He's not ready to pitch in a game yet," said Francona. Earlier, Francona said Schilling was far ahead of schedule considering the early medical reports were that he might be ready in mid-May. Francona said the timetable for making Opening Day was "artificial," more Schilling's schedule than reality. "He's not throwing 94 on the black," said Francona. "That's what he's comparing it to." He is struggling with his balance, said Francona. "Things that have come natural are not coming natural yet," he said . . . Trot Nixon homered and made a nice diving catch . . . David Ortiz blasted a two-run homer to right-center . . . Francona also caught the Schilling Flu, and Byung Hyun Kim was sent home for the third straight day with flu symptoms. Also sent home was Kevin Millar . . . Patriots coach Bill Belichick watched some of the game, then visited with Theo Epstein and Francona. Epstein said there are no plans for Belichick to address the team . . . The Sox lost the game when Denny Tomori allowed a two-run homer to Pete LaForest in the ninth.


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