Wells hits fourth home run in three games

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) – Vernon Wells kicked off his comeback tour

with a homer display in his hometown.

Wells hit his fourth homer in three games and the Toronto

Blue Jays rallied for three runs in the ninth against closer Frank

Francisco to beat the Texas Rangers 3-1 on Thursday.

Wells, who grew up in Arlington, is coming off a

disappointing season which could be blamed in part on a nagging

wrist problem. He finished ’09 with just 15 homers and 66 RBIs, his

fewest in each category since becoming a regular in 2002.

With his ninth-inning shot, Wells became the first Blue Jays

player in history to homer in each of the first three games of the

season.

“He’s been awesome, absolutely great,” Toronto manager Cito

Gaston said. “It’s just what we needed. You don’t expect him to

hit home runs like that, but something close would be nice.”

Wells went 6-for-10 and drove in seven runs to help the Blue

Jays take two of three against the team he followed as a kid.

“I guess (Wells’) wrist is well, because every pitch we made

a mistake to him on, he didn’t miss it,” Rangers manager Ron

Washington said.

Rangers starter C.J. Wilson struck out nine and allowed five

hits over seven innings in his return to the rotation, but

Francisco (0-1) failed in his first save opportunity of the season,

allowing Wells to hit a leadoff homer to left on a 1-1 splitter

that was out over the plate.

“When you’re hitting home runs, they come in bunches,”

Wells said. “It’s all a timing issue. If you keep your timing, it

helps with the pitch location.”

Lyle Overbay followed with a triple and made it 2-1 when he

scored on Edwin Encarnacion’s sacrifice fly.

Rookie Mike McCoy added an RBI single to make it 3-1 and

chase Francisco, who gave up three runs and four hits while getting

only two outs.

Washington gave his closer, who wasn’t in the clubhouse after

the game, a vote of confidence.

“We got what we wanted, into the ninth and to our closer,

but it wasn’t his day,” Washington said. “I’m certain most of the

time he’ll get it done.”

Casey Janssen (1-0) struck out the side in the eighth, and

Jason Frasor got three outs for his second save in three chances.

Wilson moved into the rotation this spring after pitching out

of the bullpen the last four seasons. He got six starts in 2005,

going 0-5 with a 12.05 ERA and an opponents’ batting average of

.441.

This time, he was a lot better, escaping jams in the fifth

and sixth and recording his longest career start.

Wilson’s said all long he won’t change much about his

approach on the mound as he transitions from setup man to starter.

“I’ve pitched in a lot of games,” Wilson said. “So, it’s

nothing new. It’s just a different challenge to pitch seven innings

and face hitters three times instead of once.”

Wilson and Toronto starter Ricky Romero matched six shutout

innings before the Rangers broke through in the seventh when David

Murphy doubled, went to third on Taylor Teagarden’s groundout, then

scored on Romero’s wild pitch.

Romero allowed one run and five hits over seven innings,

striking out four and walking two.

Vladimir Guerrero went 3-for-4 for Texas, making him 7-for-11

(.636) this season.

Earlier Thursday, the Rangers placed No. 1 catcher Jarrod

Saltalamacchia on the 15-day disabled list because of left upper

back stiffness. Washington said Saltalamacchia hurt his back during

Monday’s season opener against Toronto, but tried to play through

the discomfort.

Saltalamacchia had an MRI on Thursday and was scheduled to be

examined by a back specialist later in the day to determine the

severity of the injury.

Teagarden becomes the everyday catcher, and Texas purchased

the contract of Matt Treanor from Triple-A Oklahoma City to back

him up.

About an hour before the first pitch, second baseman Aaron

Hill was scratched from Toronto’s starting lineup with right

hamstring tightness. McCoy started in place of Hill and led off the

game with a single for his first big league hit.

Gaston said after the game that Hill shouldn’t be out for an

extended stretch.

NOTES: To make room on the 40-man roster for

Treanor, the Rangers transferred RHP Warner Madrigal from the

15-day to the 60-day disabled list due to right forearm

inflammation. … Texas LF Josh Hamilton didn’t start after going

hitless in seven at-bats and striking out in five straight plate

appearances before walking as a pinch-hitter in the seventh. “He

was out of whack,” Washington said. … 1B Ryan Garko got his

first start for Texas. … Encarnacion singled in the fifth after

starting the season 0-for-7. … Rangers 2B Ian Kinsler had an

injection in the back of his sprained right ankle that’s landed him

on the 15-day disabled list. He won’t be ready to begin a minor

league rehab assignment until next week at the earliest.