The Mariners have a boatload of uncertainty heading into the 2012 season.
Well up that list: outfielder Casper Wells.
The former Tigers prospect, traded to Seattle last July in the deal that brought stud starting pitcher Doug Fister to Detroit, showed flashes of brilliance at times with this new time. But the season ended on a sour night, as he dealt with a puzzling ailment.
“He had some eye issues, he had some head issues, he had some sinus issues, he had some things going on upstairs that really affected him,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said this afternoon at the winter meetings. “He’s been in Arizona, we’ve been checking him out, he’s been seeing the doctors. He’s been feeling good.
“We feel like we’re on top of that right now, but we need to stay on top of that.”
The Mariners, of course, would love nothing more than Wells, 27, to be their starting left fielder and provide some thump to a rather-punchless batting order. How bad is the lineup? Consider this: Seattle’s left fielders hit a combined .219 last season, and that was far from the worst on the team. Third basemen (mostly Chone Figgins) hit .195, center fielders .201 and catchers .214.
Wells at least provides some hope. During one four-game stretch last August, he hit four home runs. But then he had just one hit in his final 15 games, before being shut down in mid-September.
“Athletically, we love him in the outfield, and I like him on the bases,” Wedge said. “You know, we saw a couple weeks that were pretty special, and we still feel like that’s in there.
“But we also saw the flip side of that, too. Hopefully we can attribute that to some of the things he was having upstairs. To say I know exactly what we have, I don’t. But I know what he’s capable of.”
A Grand Rapids native, Wells was a 14th-round pick by the Tigers in 2005. In the minor leagues, he showed he was capable of 25 home runs, 75 RBIs and 20-plus stolen bases.
He saw limited action with the Tigers in 2010, but impressed, batting .323 with 17 RBIs in 36 games, then struggled offensively when given increased playing time this past season. (His defense still impressed.) On July 30, the Tigers shipped Wells, third-base prospect Francisco Martinez and right-handed reliever Chance Ruffin to the Mariners for Fister (who shined with Detroit) and reliever David Pauley (who struggled with Detroit).
Be sure to check back with Covering the Bases, as Tony Paul blogs throughout the day Monday-Wednesday from the winter meetings.