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Former Pirates pitcher Wells in deep hole

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

ST. LOUIS - Forgive Kip Wells if he doesn't get all tingly at the prospect of pitching tonight against the Pirates, his former team.

Wells has a lot on his mind.

The most glaring distraction is the right-hander's poor start to the season. Wells (1-8) is riding a seven-game losing streak, the longest of his career. His ERA is 6.75, sixth-highest among National League pitchers who have made at least five starts.

"It's exciting to face (the Pirates)," Wells said Tuesday. "Unfortunately, a lot of my focus is getting back on the winning side of things.

"In another situation, like maybe the first or second start of the year, it would have been a little more ... poetic or something. Now, it's just me trying to get out there and have quality innings."

Wells' life off the field also has taken a dramatic turn -- but in a good way. Last weekend, his wife gave birth to their first child, a daughter.

"Things are as back to normal as they're going to get," Wells said. "It's exciting. We'll see how sleep goes the next few months."

Wells' wife was admitted to a hospital in St. Louis late Friday night, while the Cardinals were in Detroit for an interleague series against the Tigers. Wells flew back here early Saturday morning, and a few hours later, Georgia Janelle was born.

"Janelle was my mother's name. She passed away from leukemia (in 1992)," Wells said. "That was my little sentimental twist on it."

And why Georgia?

"I don't know. We just decided that was the right name," Wells said. "We didn't want to name her something totally off the wall, like Wishing Wells."

That's not to say the baby's first day was entirely normal.

Wells eagerly showed off a handful of photographs taken in the hospital. In one shot, tiny Georgia Janelle is lying atop a plastic baggie of dirt.


"Oh, one of my relatives brought that from home," said Wells, a Houston native. "This way, we can say the first thing she touched was Texas dirt."

The Pirates sent Wells close to home last July by dealing him to the Texas Rangers. He started just two games before having season-ending foot surgery.

In the offseason, Wells, a free agent, signed a one-year, $4 million contract with St. Louis. He won his second start for the Cardinals, tossing seven shutout innings against Houston, but he has struggled since.

During his seven-game skid, Wells has allowed 37 earned runs in 39 innings. Over his past three starts, he has allowed 13 walks.

Wells has tinkered with his mechanics but hasn't given them a complete overhaul.

"Obviously, there are things at times I'm trying to (fine-tune)," he said. "But trying to reinvent the wheel every time you throw is a bit to the extreme side of things.

"At this point, I just need to figure out what style I want to go with and stick to it instead of how it's been -- I'll try to pitch a finesse game one start, I'll go right at them in another start, do this or that."

After playing for the Pirates for four-plus seasons, Wells is familiar with many of the batters he'll face tonight. But he doesn't believe that gives either side an edge.

"I think the edge is something that's all relative to before you start the game," Wells said. "It's, 'This guy is going to be good today' or 'We have a chance against this guy.'

"But once the first inning starts, if you get ahead and have a quick inning, all of a sudden that edge is gone. It's a matter of getting out there and setting the tone."

Pitcher from the past
Here's a look at Kip Wells' statistics during his career with the Pirates:
Season G W-L ERA
2002 33 12-14 3.59
2003 31 10-9 3.28
2004 24 5-7 4.55
2005 33 8-18 5.09
2006 7 1-5 6.69

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