A bulging disc in his lower back is threatening to put a damper on what was shaping up as another brilliant season in pinstripes for David Wells.
Wells hopes to continue shaking off the nagging injury and put an end to a season-high five-start winless streak as the New York Yankees resume a three-game series with the Chicago White Sox at Yankee Stadium.
Wells, who won at least 16 games in each of his previous three seasons while a Yankee, including a team-best 19 victories last year, was coasting with a 12-3 mark after a 7-4 win over Cleveland on July 19.
But Wells’ back began to get the best of him in his next start at Boston on July 25, and ultimately resulted in him missing a start two weeks ago. The left-hander returned to the rotation Friday, but suffered his first defeat since July 4 in a 5-3 loss to Baltimore, allowing four runs and 10 hits over seven innings.
“He wasn’t locating and there were some pitches he didn’t get. But physically, he was OK,” New York manager Joe Torre said of Wells. “He was obviously frustrated with the outing and especially the fact that we gave him a couple of leads that he couldn’t hold.”
Perhaps most telling of Wells’ injury is his walk total since his back began flaring up on him. Prior to July 25, he had walked just six batters in 134 innings. He has since issued 10 walks over his last 29 2-3 innings.
The last time Wells had to deal with a serious back injury was in 2001, when he pitched for the White Sox. He went 5-7 with a 4.47 ERA in just 16 starts before undergoing back surgery and signing with New York in the offseason.
Wells is 31-11 during his second stint in the Bronx. He went 34-14 for the Yankees from 1997-98 before being sent to Toronto in the deal for current teammate Roger Clemens.
Clemens got rocked for four homers, including a grand slam by Frank Thomas, as the Yankees were pounded 13-2 in Tuesday’s series opener—the first of six meetings between these teams this season.
Magglio Ordonez added two of Chicago’s season high-tying six homers as the White Sox maintained their one-game lead over second-place Kansas City in the AL Central.
Derek Jeter drove in both runs for New York, which had won nine of 11.
STANDINGS: White Sox - 1st place, AL Central. Yankees - 1st place, AL East.
WHITE SOX PROBABLE STARTER: Bartolo Colon (11-11, 4.24 ERA). Colon ended a two-start losing streak Thursday, yielding three runs and six hits over seven strong innings in a 7-3 win over Texas. The hard-throwing right-hander was pounded for 15 runs and 17 hits over 10 innings in his previous two outings. Colon is 2-2 with a 2.92 ERA in six career appearances, including five starts, against the Yankees.
YANKEES PROBABLE STARTER: Wells (12-4, 3.96 ERA). Wells is 8-7 with a 4.16 ERA in 31 career appearances, including 20 starts, against the White Sox.
OFFENSIVE LEADERS: White Sox - Ordonez, .320 avg. and 83 runs; Thomas, 35 HRs; Carlos Lee, 92 RBIs and 12 SBs. Yankees - Jeter, .317 avg.; Jason Giambi, 35 HRs and 94 RBIs; Alfonso Soriano, 93 runs and 29 SBs.
SEASON SERIES: White Sox, 1-0.
STREAKS AND NOTES: White Sox - DH Thomas’ grand slam Tuesday was the eighth of his career and first since Sept. 11, 2000. … 1B Paul Konerko had been in a 3-for-26 slide before going 3-for-4 with two homers Tuesday. … Thomas is hitting .340 (18-for-53) with five homers and 12 RBIs in his career against LHP Wells. Yankees - New York made room for LHP Gabe White, activated from the DL, and LHP Felix Heredia, picked up off waivers from Cincinnati, by sending RHP Jeff Weaver to Class A Tampa and designating LHP Jesse Orosco for assignment Tuesday. … The Yankees have used 18 relievers this season. … 1B Giambi is 5-for-13 (.385) lifetime against RHP Colon.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: White Sox - 27-39 on the road; Yankees - 38-27 at home.