By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
SEATTLE — Casper Wells sat in front of his locker and looked completely at ease. It was hours before Monday night’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays and Wells was the picture of a player relaxed in his role with his team.
Today’s 1 p.m. nonwaiver trading deadline for the majors hadn’t even crossed his mind.
A year ago to the day couldn’t have been more different. Exactly 365 days before, Wells’ baseball career took a major shift.
A year ago, Wells, Charlie Furbush, Fernando Martinez and a player to be named (Chance Ruffin) were traded from the Detroit Tigers to the Mariners for pitchers Doug Fister and David Pauley.
“You just have to get over the initial shock,” Wells said.
Did he know he was trade fodder?
Well, not exactly. But about a week before the trading deadline, the Tigers optioned him to Class AAA Toledo. It was unexpected.
Wells was a promising player for the Tigers. But Detroit’s need for pitching and its logjam of outfielders made him expendable.
“I knew it was for some other reason,” Wells said of his demotion to Class AAA.
Just 23 hours later, Wells started in left field for the Mariners. He went 1-for-4 with an RBI in an 8-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
He got calls from general manager Dave Dombrowski and manager Jim Leyland. Leyland thanked him for his efforts and said it was a move that wasn’t particularly enjoyable, but necessary.
“He didn’t have to do that, and a lot of times he didn’t do that for other players,” Wells said. “He really liked me and how I approached the game. It was a classy move.”
Meanwhile, he had to deal with moving in a whirlwind.
“I had like three hours to pack up my whole apartment and get my truck to the stadium so they could ship it to Seattle,” he said. “I had to live out of a suitcase for a few weeks till my truck got there. It’s stuff that you have to deal with at that moment that you don’t really want to do.”
Wells was lucky to not be married with a family.
“I was on my own,” he said.
Such is life in the big leagues. With today’s trade deadline looming, Wells isn’t likely to be moved. But it’s a possibility for teammates Brandon League, Jason Vargas and Kevin Millwood.
“I’m more familiar with what’s going on,” Wells said. “It just gives you more things to think about. If you let it get to you, it can be a definite distraction.”
With the advent of social media, trade rumors circulate more than ever.
“It’s just all over the place,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “It’s all speculation. Nine out of 10 times, or 95 out of 100, there’s not much truth to what’s out there. You just have to wait and see.”
“Veteran clubhouses usually handle it best because they’ve been down that road before,” Wedge said. “Our guys have been all right, for the most part.”
The Mariners clubhouse is far from veteran. But Wedge hasn’t felt the need to address the trade deadline
“It’s just part of being a big leaguer, being a pro,” Wedge said. “It comes with the territory. … It’s always going to come around at the same time. You just have to handle it. Wherever you are is where you are. You have to keep your mind in the moment, focus on the task at hand, and do what you have to do. Our guys are here, they’re playing for the Mariners. We’re proud to have them. Let’s go out and win a ballgame.”
Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, on the long road back from a concussion, has begun taking batting practice, fielding fly balls and running the bases. He went through more tests Monday, but he isn’t cleared for full activity in game situations. … Reliever Charlie Furbush (elbow) threw off flat ground and is working his way back. Wedge said Furbush will likely throw a bullpen session by the weekend.
Ryan Divish, The News Tribune