TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — David Wells is a changed man.
The former pitcher known as the “Hefty Lefty” during his playing days is a Yankees’ spring training instructor in a camp where player weights have become a main focal point.
In the opening week, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said reliever Joba Chamberlain is heavier, ace CC Sabathia reported 25 pounds lighter after minor right knee surgery and non-roster pitcher Bartolo Colon is looking to shed 25 pounds.
Even a lighter Alex Rodriguez, who took grounders on a back field Saturday during his initial spring training workout, was part of this year’s weighty topic.
“It was his decision,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of the 35-year old A-Rod, who had right hip surgery two years ago.
In a camp with some big men, a slimmer Wells caught Girardi’s eyes right away.
“He’s in better shape now than when he played,” a smiling Girardi said.
Wells has developed a new outlook about carrying too much weight. A type-2 diabetic, Wells also reflected on how extra pounds affected back and knee injuries.
“That’s why now, some of the bigger dudes, if they do have weight problems, I’m here if they want to talk to me about certain things,” Wells said. “I would push them to lose the weight, not be a hard (guy) like I was because I’ve been through all the injuries. Do what they say. Get down to the goal they want you to, or get close to it. I’m sure they’ll compromise.”
Wells didn’t consider an issue when he played due to his good mound agility.
“I could do all the drills at a heavy weight because I felt I was comfortable,” Wells said. “I got down to 240, where they wanted me, and I pitched the same.”
Chamberlain responded to Cashman’s comments by saying after working out in a gym at his house this winter that he’s in better shape than the past.
But, Chamberlain faces the one challenge Wells did.
“If you get your butt kicked, you’re fat as can be, and you’re skinny when you’re going well,” Wells said.
Chamberlain wouldn’t say if he reported above the team-suggested weight, and doesn’t to address the matter, again.
Colon, on the other hand, was very open, saying he weighed in at 267 pounds.
“I have a goal, but I won’t be able to do it at spring training,” he said through a translator. “I feel really good right now the way I am, but I feel like I need to go down in my weight.”
The 37-year old Colon topped out at 278 points while pitching with Cleveland.
“We’ll help him get it off the best we can, safely,” Cashman said.
Also, first baseman Mark Teixeira, coming off a season in which he had a broken toe, sore thumb and strained his right hamstring in the fourth game of the ALCS, said there are no lingering issues.
“It’s over,” Teixeira said. “I play hard. I’m going to get hit with pitches. I’m going to dive and jam stuff. You’ve just got to play through it and hope for best.”
Teixeira increased his batting practice sessions this winter in preparation for a season where he considers the Yankees to be an AL East underdog.
“I love it,” Teixeira said. “No one is picking us right now, and everybody in here should be looking forward to winning a championship. We played terrible in the playoffs. We didn’t win the division. We’ve got to re prove ourselves this year, which is going to be fun for all of us.”
Notes: Fans have been speculating about the potential of trading Teixeira to St. Louis for slugger Albert Pujols, who could become a free agent after the season. Even if the teams decided to explore it and came to a deal, Teixeira has a no-trade clause and would use it. “I’m not going anywhere,” Teixeira said. “I got that no trade for a reason. I’m going to be buried in these pinstripes.” … 2B Robinson Cano got the days mixed up and missed Saturday’s physicals. He is expected to arrive Sunday for the first full squad workout. “It’s no biggie,” Cashman said. “He’s not going to miss anything.”