At first, Vernon Wells was surprised when the Angels told him he had been traded so close to the end of spring training.
As soon as Wells heard it was the Yankees, he was thrilled. They didn't need to wait for long for his approval.
"I tried not to smile too big in the office," Wells said Tuesday upon his arrival at Steinbrenner Field. "It's like I'm a kid again. I got goose bumps just driving down the road a couple of hours afterward.
"You start thinking about the roll call. I won't be the guy that gets picked on by the bleachers this time, even though I enjoyed it. Now it's going to be a little different hearing my name and being in pinstripes. It gives me chills now."
Shortly after setting up at his locker, Wells learned that he was in Tuesday's night lineup, playing leftfield and batting sixth against the Astros. He should get used to it. With Curtis Granderson out until early May, Wells will be there for a while, and the Yankees are hoping he can stay as productive as he's been this month.
Wells was batting .361 (13-for-36) with a double and four homers in 14 Cactus League games with the Angels. The righthanded-hitting Wells also says he's been going opposite-field more than in recent years, which should help him take aim at the Stadium's short porch in right.
"It's a beautiful place, isn't it?" Wells said, smiling. "It's just going to reward guys for taking quality swings. That's all that is."
Wells credited extensive cage work this offseason at his home in the Dallas-Fort Worth area for helping him self-correct his swing. He figures it was a number of factors that led to his declining production the past few seasons, and saddled Wells with the reputation of being one of the most overpaid players in the game after signing that seven-year, $126-million contract with the Blue Jays in 2006.
"No one's worth that kind of money," Wells said. "It's what the market is at the time, and you can catch the market at a good time, you can catch the market at a bad time. I caught the market at a good time, and you know what, I go out and play the game the same way as I did when I was a little kid growing up."
The Angels agreed to pay nearly $30 million of the $42 million still owed to Wells through the 2014 season. The Yankees completed the trade Tuesday by sending a pair of minor-leaguers, outfielder Exircado Cayones and lefthander Kramer Sneed, to Los Angeles. As expendable as Wells was to the Angels, the Yankees couldn't need him any more than they do right at this moment.
"It's well documented the guys that are on the DL, and I think this is probably the best time for me to be in this situation," Wells said. "My goal is just to get back to the basics, just putting the barrel on the ball as many times as I can, shortening my swing and using the other field. I forgot what[hitting to] rightfield was like for a couple years. You get caught up in hitting home runs and seeing how far you can hit them and your swing changes.
"I was able to take some time this offseason, look at a lot of video from when I was younger, and just spraying the ball all over the field. So far, so good. Getting back to just being short and quick, and balls are still jumping off my bat, and my hands are still quick as they were when I was younger. So it's just a matter of trusting myself."
After Angels manager Mike Scoscia wished him well, Wells thanked him, but also said he planned to "Napoli" the Angels, referring to the way the team's former catcher has raked against them (.396, 12 HRs, 25 RBIs) in the 33 games since the Angels traded him to the Blue Jays in the Wells deal.
"I've quietly been a Yankee fan," said Wells, who liked them ever since playing against their Triple-A team as a 20-year-old. "Obviously not when we played against the Yankees. But any time or every time the Yankees were in the playoffs and I was sitting at home, I was cheering for the Yankees, so this is somewhat of a dream come true."