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.