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DAN SHAUGHNESSY

Hurt pitcher or lame duck?

Wells isn't much of a player in camp

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- Chased down David Wells yesterday. Shameless, I know. Like the common paparazzi, hungry for a photo of Brad and Angelina, I approached Wells as he was about to close the door of his monstrous white SUV.

The rest of the Red Sox pitchers and catchers were still on the fields of the minor league complex, but Wells -- who is on his own training program as he waits to be traded -- was ready to roll out of the parking lot well before noon.

Here's the full transcript of our exchange:

Globe: ''David, are you going to talk to us?"

Wells: ''No."

Globe: ''Never?"

Wells: ''Well, I won't say never, but not now. You guys can wait. I'm not going to give you any time frame. When I'm ready, I'll do it. But I know what you are going to ask. No news is good news,

I guess, ha ha ha, ha . . . I know how you guys work."

Globe: ''Is it OK with you if they don't trade you?"

Wells: ''Bye. Ha ha ha ha ha. Bye."

Globe: ''Maybe tomorrow, then."

Wells: ''Not tomorrow, either. Bye."

It's weird, this Wells situation. The 42-year-old lefthander is under contract to the Red Sox for one more season and he'll make $7.5 million this year. He went 15-7 with a 4.45 ERA in 30 starts with the Sox last year, pitching 184 innings and walking only 21 batters. When we last saw him on the mound, he was coughing up a 4-0 lead against the White Sox, surrendering a three-run homer to the immortal Tadahito Iguchi after Tony Graffanino muffed a double play grounder.

Shortly after the Red Sox were swept by the other Sox, Wells said he didn't like pitching in Boston and wanted to be traded closer to his San Diego digs. He said he didn't like the way he got bothered all the time when he tried to stroll around Boston. He said he wanted to finish his career in Southern California.

The Red Sox have tried to accommodate the big fella, but his restrictions make it difficult to strike a worthwhile deal, and a lefthander who can win 15 games is a valuable asset -- even a soon-to-be-43-year-old who looks fit for weekend beer leagues. Like JoJo the Whale in ''A Bronx Tale," you do not walk with David Wells, you walk among him. Doesn't matter. He's 227-143 lifetime in the majors. The man can pitch.

All of which leads us to the kooky dynamic in Sox camp. Wells comes and goes without talking to the media and he does not work out with his teammates. Sunday and yesterday, he emerged from the clubhouse only to play catch briefly in the outfield, far removed from the rest of his teammates.

Both days he was long gone before the workouts ended. Manager Terry Francona says this is because Wells had one of his knees worked on after last season, but other Sox pitchers had postseason procedures and none of them are on an independent training program. It's as if the Sox have already conceded that Wells is not part of their team in 2006. But he gets to use the facility.

Francona disputes that notion.

''This is because he had significant knee surgery," said the manager. ''We want to get him out pitching as soon as he can where he can be healthy and pitch well, and he's not ready to do that right now. The idea for the next two weeks is for David to do his work inside. He'll come out and do long toss, but he doesn't want to put weight on his leg for the next two weeks."

Does Francona feel Wells is a member of the Red Sox?

''He's doing what we've asked, but again, I don't know. Right now he's not healthy enough to be. We'll see what happens, but nothing can happen until he gets out on the mound and pitches with health, and that's what we're shooting for right now."

The manager, not totally obtuse, acknowledged, ''Obviously, I know he asked to be traded and all that. I think I'll treat him with the respect he deserves, because he's found a way to be a very good pitcher for an awful long time. Right now, we'll just try to get him healthy. We're on the same page and we'll see where it leads.

''He and I spoke, but a lot of it was pretty personal conversation and I don't think he meant it to be shared and I need to respect that. David and I have a pretty good understanding of what's going on, and he's OK. He's doing exactly what we asked him to do."

General manager Theo Epstein won't comment about the status of efforts to trade Wells, dismissing all questions with, ''That's between the player and the team."

This cartel member votes to keep Wells on the island. He's a lefthander who won 15 games last year and the Sox aren't likely to get commensurate value given Wells's rehabilitation status and his destination restrictions. Like Manny Ramírez, Wells's only leverage is to sit out, and the betting here is that he'll pitch for Boston before he forgoes $7.5 million.

Dan Shaughnessy is a Globe columnist. His e-mail address is dshaughnessy@globe.com.

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