SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake fans were eager to watch three-time MLB All-Star, three-time Gold Glove recipient Vernon Wells on Friday as the Angels outfielder began a rehab assignment with the Bees after being placed on the disabled list back in May.
Though the veteran's arrival in Salt Lake City was an exciting one, his imminent return to Anaheim — expected to follow a seven to 10 game stint in Salt Lake — may not evoke the same response.
Wells, 33, was placed on the disabled list with a right thumb injury that resulted in surgery on his ulnar collateral ligament. And while the 14-year MLB veteran was hurting, the Halos' roster was … not.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia explained the "situation" to reporters earlier this week, stating that Wells' position upon his return "remains to be seen."
"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it," he said.
The situation? An ever-crowded roster boasting fresh talent in the outfield. Talent that includes rookie sensation Mike Trout at center field and Mark Trumbo at left field. Both are excelling and Wells' arrival may ruffle feathers if he cuts into either one's playing time.
Still, the longtime big leaguer, who has two more years and $42 million left on his contract, has invaluable years of experience. And according to Salt Lake manager Keith Johnson, he will be just fine.
"He's a proven major leaguer," Johnson said. "His main concern is to get himself back healthy, then once he gets back healthy, I'm sure he has all the confidence in his game that he can go up and help our big league team win, however they use him."
"My job is to get his work in down here and send him back up there healthy."
Wells went 1-for-3 at the plate and saw some quality defensive action in the 4-1 win.
"He did a great job tonight. He made a couple nice plays for us on defense and came out healthy, which is the big thing for me," Johnson said.
The Bees' series opening victory was a breath of fresh air, as the Grizzlies swept the last four game series in June. Luis Jimenez had a stellar night, going 4-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs and a tying home run in the bottom of the fifth.
ROSTER MOVE: RHP Eric Hurley has cleared waivers and has opted for free agency. Hurley made 18 starts for the Bees and went 7-8 with an ERA of 5.81.
Keith Johnson's take: "Smith obviously did a great job mixing it up, keeping those guys off balance. They weren't able to put a bunch of at-bats together tonight. When he needed to make pitches, he made pitches and kept them off the scoreboard."
Up next: Fresno at Salt Lake, tonight, 7:05. Grizzlies LHP Jason Stevenson (2-3, 6.56 ERA) vs. Bees RHP Eddie McKiernan (5-2, 7.17 ERA).
This homestand: Saturday-Monday vs. Fresno (San Francisco Giants).
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