Wells will continue to anchor middle of Blue Jays lineup

By Jordan Bastian / MLB.com , 01/24/2007 10:00 AM ET

藍鳥隊有疑慮。這個聲音從上一季開始出現,當時還無法確定Vernon Wells在2007年還會不會待在多倫多。
當球季結束後,各式各樣的交易傳言不脛而走,這似乎離Wells離開多倫多的日子不遠了。中外野手的合約只到2007年,一但他在2007年底的冬天成為自由球員,勢必要付出相當的代價。在薪資爆炸的市場,評論家不認為藍鳥隊有足夠深的口袋可以用長約來綁住Wells。

不過多倫多證明這些人是錯的。在2006年的十二月藍鳥隊和Wells簽下一紙從2008年開始七年,一億兩千六百萬美金的合約。所以謠言消失了,而多倫多仍然擁有這名頂尖之一的外野手。

“現在是他生涯狀況最好的時候,而這幾年他應該也都能打出佳績。”GM J.P. Ricciardi在簽下新約後說到。”對我們來說重要的是保住一名原本體系內的球員勝過放掉他,並且開始思考:如果沒有他,我們損失了什麼?”

只要Wells仍然在中外野,藍鳥就可以繼續在左右外野放著Reed Johnson和Alex Rios。假如Wells不在的話,去年都打出career year的Johnson和Rios可能就需要轉換守備位置了。

繼續保有這三人組,在另一方面來說,就意味著藍鳥擁有聯盟中最佳之一的外野防線。Wells在去年連續第三年拿下美聯金手套,而Johnson和Rios自2004年上場之後合計繳出73次的外野助殺和16次失誤。

Rogers Centre的人工草皮讓外野變得難於防守,同時擁有三名強肩俊足的外野手更形重要。

“球在人工草皮上的滾動較快,”教練John Gibbons說到。”如果這些傢伙可以把球攔下並結合他們的臂力—我不認為在聯盟中你可以找到一個更好的三人組。”

“他們可以降低長打數—不讓對手進佔更多的壘包,”他補充說。”這是很重要的。這三個人都利用他們的手套和棒子幫我們贏了很多的比賽。”

Wells已經成為藍鳥打線中的焦點。去年他以第三棒的角色交出0.303的打擊率、32支全壘打以及生涯新高的106分打點。這是28歲的Wells四年來第二次單季擊出30發以上的全壘打以及生涯第三次單季打進超過100分的打點。

Johnson和Rios也和Wells一樣在2006年在打擊上有個豐收的一季。Johnson逐漸成為當家的開路先鋒而Rios則主要以第二棒出現在打序中。

30歲的Johnson去年打出生涯最佳、同時也是全隊第一的0.319的打擊率。與此同時他的得分(86)、安打(147)、二壘打(34)、全壘打(12)、壘打數(221)、保送(33)、長打率(0.479)和上壘率(0.390)也都是生涯最佳。他的上壘率更是美聯第一棒中的最佳。

25歲的Rios上一季在打擊率(0.302)、全壘打(17)、打點(82)、安打(136)、壘打數(232)、二壘打(33)、保送(35)、盜壘(15)、長打率(0.516)和上壘率(0.349)都創下生涯新高,同時也首度入選明星賽。

“我們清楚Vernon可以帶給我們什麼,”Gibbons說到。”我想Alex也逐漸展露出頭角。Reed有他特別的能力而他也能夠升任先發這個角色”

Rios去年左腳受到葡萄球菌的感染而只打了128場比賽。那奇怪的傷勢讓他在多倫多的醫院躺了超過一個禮拜而也整整一個月不能上場。而傷勢也讓Rios在下半季的成績大幅下降,現在球團希望能看看Rios在一個完整的球季能帶給他們什麼。

“我希望他能有一個出色的球季而且能越來越好,”Gibbon說,”去年不論他有沒有打出全壘打,他都打消了一些人們的疑慮,爾後他也確實展現了長打能力。在受到細菌感染之後,他表現並不突出,但是我們都看到了他的成績也知道他的能力。”

這個冬天,Catalanotto和遊騎兵簽下合約。而藍鳥則在十二月以小聯盟約簽下加拿大籍的Matt Stairs作為第四號外野手。Stairs去年遊走老虎、皇家和遊騎兵,一共出賽117場,打擊率0.247,擊出13支全壘打和51分的打點。

還在小聯盟的Adam Lind也是一個選擇。這名23歲的左外野手去年在球隊的農場系統中急速上升,並在九月的18場比賽中繳出讓球隊印象深刻的0.367的打擊率。他其實在今年春天應該就可以晉身大聯盟了,但是球隊希望他能有更多的實戰經驗而將讓他從3A出發。

附上原文﹕

The Blue Jays had their doubters. The rumblings began last season, when it wasn't clear whether or not Vernon Wells would be suiting up for Toronto come 2007.

Trade rumors gained momentum once the offseason rolled around, making Wells' departure seem more imminent. The center fielder was under contract for '07, but he'd be in for a huge payday if he became a free agent the following winter. In a booming market, critics weren't convinced that the Blue Jays had a deep enough pocketbook to lock Wells up with a long-term deal.

Toronto proved its naysayers wrong, though. In December, the Jays made arguably their biggest move of the winter by signing Wells to a seven-year, $126 million extension that begins with the 2008 season. So, with the rumors quashed and Wells in the fold for this year and beyond, Toronto can once again claim one of the best outfields in baseball.

"It's the prime of his career and a time when he's probably going to play his best baseball," Toronto general manager J.P. Ricciardi said after signing Wells. "It was more important to us to retain the player and work from inside out than it was to not have the player and start thinking about, 'How do we do other things without the player?'"

With Wells still in center field, the Blue Jays will be able to keep Reed Johnson in left and Alex Rios in right. Johnson and Rios, who are both coming off career years at the plate, might've had to consider new positions if Wells were out of the picture.

Keeping that trio intact, on the other hand, gives the Blue Jays one of the strongest defensive outfields around. Wells, who won his third consecutive American League Gold Glove Award last year, Johnson and Rios have combined for 73 outfield assists and 16 errors since the start of the 2004 season.

In a stadium like Rogers Centre, where the artificial FieldTurf can make the outfield gaps difficult to defend, having three outfielders with good speed and strong arms is important.

"It's a fast game on that turf," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "If those guys can cut baseballs off in the gaps, you combine that with those three arms -- I don't think you can find a better trio in baseball."

"They can equalize the running game -- keep guys from taking extra bases," he added. "It's huge. All three of them won us a lot of games out there with their defense and offense."

Wells has become the focal point of Toronto's potent offense. Last year, he hit .303 with 32 home runs and a team-high 106 RBIs primarily out of the No. 3 spot in the lineup. It marked the second time in four years that the 28-year-old Wells topped 30 homers and the third time in his career that he reached at least 100 RBIs.

Wells' production was also aided by the offensive years that both Johnson and Rios had in 2006. Johnson thrived as Toronto's leadoff hitter and Rios spent much of his time in the second spot of the order for the Jays.

Johnson, 30, led Toronto with a career-high .319 batting average, and he also set personal bests in runs (86), hits (147), doubles (34), home runs (12), total bases (221), walks (33), slugging percentage (.479), and on-base percentage (.390). His on-base percentage ranked first among AL leadoff hitters.

Rios, 25, finished with career highs in batting average (.302), home runs (17), RBIs (82), hits (136), total bases (232), doubles (33), walks (35), stolen bases (15), slugging percentage (.516), and on-base percentage (.349). He also was selected to the AL All-Star team for the first time.

"We know what Vernon is going to give us," Gibbons said. "I think Alex is just scratching the surface with what he's capable of doing. Reed is kind of coming into his own and he flourished in that everyday role."

Rios was limited to 128 games due to a strange staph infection in his left leg, though. The freak injury landed him in a Toronto hospital for more than a week and sidelined him for a month. The injury took a toll on Rios' production in the second half and the Jays are looking forward to seeing what he can do over a full season in 2007.

"I expect him to have a good year and just keep getting better and better," Gibbons said. "Last year he eliminated some doubts as to whether he was going to hit any home runs at all and then he hit a bunch early. After that staph infection, he came back and didn't hit many, but we saw him do it and now we know he can do it."

This winter, Toronto lost outfielder Frank Catalanotto, who signed as a free agent with the Rangers. The Jays signed Canadian outfielder Matt Stairs to a Minor League contract in December with the hope that he can serve as the club's fourth outfielder. Stairs hit .247 with 13 homers and 51 RBIs in 117 games with the Tigers, Royals and Rangers last year.

Minor Leaguer Adam Lind also provides an outfield option for the Blue Jays. The 23-year-old left fielder rapidly climbed up the organizational ladder last year and impressed Toronto by hitting .367 in 18 September games with the Jays. Lind could make the Major League roster this spring, but Toronto might prefer to have him get more at-bats at Triple-A to continue his development.

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