TORONTO -- One day in March, as David Wells pitched in a mock game at the Sox' minor league complex, Double A righthander David Pauley sat behind the backstop charting Wells's pitches as a favor to the coaches. Tonight, he will be taking Wells's turn in the rotation, without so much as a single appearance above Double A Portland.
``Pure excitement," the 22-year-old Colorado native said yesterday. ``Obviously, I was shocked at first. It took me a few minutes to come down and realize what was going on. Biggest point in my life."
To activate Pauley (2-3, 2.39 ERA in 10 starts with Portland), the Sox will put Wells on the disabled list today with a right knee contusion, ruling him out of pitching Tuesday at Yankee Stadium and ruling him out of anything until at least June 11 vs. Texas.
``That's the next thing we're shooting for," said manager Terry Francona.
Wells, who was struck in the knee by a line drive last Friday, did not go on the DL until now, Francona said, ``because he was giving it such a good shot to try to pitch."
When Francona suggested the DL yesterday, Wells ``wasn't giving me any argument," the manager said. ``I said to him, `Seems to me that if you thought you could pitch you'd be yelling at me.' And he says, `Yeah.' So it made it painfully obvious to me that that was the move to make.
``How he comes through [this period of time] will be telling."
In going with Pauley, the Sox dipped into Double A for a starter for the first time since calling up Abe Alvarez in July 2004. Alvarez, who is 5-1 with a 2.78 ERA for Pawtucket, could have been summoned to pitch today on normal rest. But the decision-makers didn't want to use a soft-throwing lefthander against a Toronto lineup stacked with righthanded power.
``We didn't want to rush a lefty in to face Toronto," Francona said.
Francona said of Pauley, ``We didn't think it would bother his progression. We have a day off the next day. It's not like he has to go eight. And hopefully some unfamiliarity with him will get him through. We think he can handle a start or two or whatever it ends up being."
A second start would fall Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, though it's hard to see the Sox thrusting Pauley into that setting. Pauley is widely regarded as a fringe fifth starter in the big leagues with average to below-average arm strength, a scouting report he probably wouldn't dispute.
``When I first got drafted [eighth round in 2001 by San Diego], I was basically an average guy -- four-seamers at 88 to 90 [m.p.h], curveball was inconsistent, and below-average changeup," he said.
After being dealt to the Sox in December 2004 with Jay Payton and Ramon Vazquez for Dave Roberts, Pauley morphed into a sinkerball pitcher. He said he throws sinkers about 85 percent of the time, usually at 86-91 m.p.h.
``My changeup has come a long way," he said. ``And I have my curveball, too, as a strikeout pitch. And I can get ahead with it."
Pauley said he's thankful to have started an exhibition game April 1 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, and he's somewhat thankful to have struggled (4 IP, 8 H, 5 R, including a three-run homer by Chase Utley).
``If I hadn't pitched there I probably wouldn't know what was going on now," he said. ``It's a pretty significant jump."
Francona said he did not even ask his player development people whether there was a possibility of starting Craig Hansen. Hansen, who is 0-1 with a 1.54 ERA in three starts with Pawtucket, would be pitching on three days' rest if he were called upon.
``I've tried to stay away from asking questions besides, `How's he doing?' " Francona said. ``When he's ready, they'll let us know. Then we can decide what role he's best suited for here."
``They may drill the nail to release the pressure," he said. ``The ball hit straight on the tip. It feels like pressure under the nail. The last motion you make when you walk is to come up on the toe."
Still, he said, ``I'm pretty sure it won't be worse than a day or two, max."
Without Loretta, Francona hit Coco Crisp leadoff and batted Kevin Youkilis in Loretta's No. 2 spot. If Loretta returns today, Francona probably will bat Crisp down in the order for a few more games before moving him to the leadoff spot for good.
``I'd like him to get a little bit of time under his belt," Francona said.
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