Break from baseball helps Casper Wells get back to Tigers

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Ted Kulfan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Sometimes just getting away from baseball for a few days can do wonders.

Casper Wells is a classic case.

The right fielder, called up from Triple-A Toledo on Monday, struggled through the first half of the season with the Mud Hens.

Included in that first half was a brief, non-descript stretch with the Tigers (.222, two RBIs), and Wells putting increased pressure on himself. He was pressing.

Then, Wells went home to Schenectady, N.Y. for the All-Star break. He visited his sick grandmother Mary Wells (who ultimately passed away) and got support from family and friends.

“Going back home allowed me to get a mental break and not think about baseball,” said Wells, 25, who batted eighth Monday night, going hitless in two at-bats before being replaced in the fifth inning of the 12-3 victory over the Royals. “My grandmother was real sick and that made me realize there are things are more important than struggles I was dealing with in baseball.

“I just decided to come back from the break and remain positive and take positives out of every day and every at-bat.

“Things began to click.”

Overall in Toledo, Wells was hitting .233 with 21 home runs and 46 RBIs. He also had 22 doubles and six triples in 103 games.

But in August, Wells has hit .354 (23 for 65) with five home runs, three triples, seven doubles and 12 RBIs in 18 games.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland was anxious to see Wells play.

“He has an opportunity be a two-way player,” Leyland said. “Good defensively, pretty good runner, and has some power.

“He’s one of those guys he can take an ugly swing and look bad, but on the next pitch, he’ll hit it out of the park.”

To make room for Wells, reliever Enrique Gonzalez was designated for assignment.

Mighty mite

The one thing you notice about second baseman Will Rhymes is obviously his size.

Generously listed at 5-foot-9, he’s not exactly the tallest major leaguer you’ll ever see. But an efficient major leaguer doesn’t have to be any certain size or shape, Leyland said.

“I have a lot of respect for him,” Leyland said. “He’s a little undersized, but that doesn’t bother me. Rafael Belliard (another small man) played for 16 seasons (actually 17). There’s room for guys like Will Rhymes.”

Mainly because of the way Rhymes plays.

“He’s got energy,” Leyland said. “A tough little son-of-a-gun.”

Rhymes, 27, had two more hits Monday and is batting .520 (13-for-25) in his last six games.

Around the horn

With all the talk of waivers and trades the last few weeks, Leyland said he could never be a general manager.

“I’m not smart enough, I might lose half of my team on waivers the first week of the season,” Leyland said. “Plus, (GMs) work 12 months a year.”

… Still no timetable for a return for Carlos Guillen (knee).

Royals at Tigers

First pitch: 7:05 tonight, Comerica Park, Detroit

TV/radio: FSD/WXYT

Tonight’s scouting report