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Nationals sign Kip Wells

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  • Nationals sign Kip Wells

    VIERA, Fla., March 11 -- The Washington Nationals signed right-handed pitcher Kip Wells to a non-guaranteed minor league deal Wednesday, a contract that allows the veteran a chance to revive his career while presenting almost no risk to the club.

    Wells, 31, has struggled with injuries since 2006, twice ending up on the 60-day disabled list with blood clots. But acting general manager Mike Rizzo said Wednesday that Wells "passed his physical with flying colors," and that the Nationals believe he could help either as the fifth man in a still-developing rotation, a swingman out of a bullpen that hasn't begun to form yet, or a starter for Class AAA Syracuse who would be just a call away.

    "I've always liked his stuff," Rizzo said. "He's always been a 'stuff' guy, but different things have prevented him from putting things together."

    Rizzo said Nationals scout Jimmy Gonzales recently saw Wells throw an all-out, 50-pitch bullpen session in which Wells threw his fastball from 90 to 93 mph and had good movement on his slider. Rizzo said the club also considered that during Wells's most successful years in Pittsburgh -- in 2002-03, he posted a 3.43 ERA over 64 starts for the Pirates -- his pitching coach was Spin Williams, who now coordinates the Nationals' minor league pitching program. Wells worked out with Williams and pitching coach Randy St. Claire on Wednesday.

    "He had his greatest success with Spin," Rizzo said. "He thinks we can do something with him. With Spin and Randy being two real good delivery-type of pitching coaches, I think we can get this guy in the right frame of mind and focus to help us either as a fifth man in the rotation or a swing guy or as inventory" in the minors.

    Wells would make $500,000 if he made the major league club. He pitched in the Colorado and Kansas City organizations last season, making just two starts among his 25 major league appearances. He went 7-17 for St. Louis in 2007. In parts of 10 major league seasons, he has only twice posted a winning record, the last time when he went 10-9 for the Pirates in 2003. Since then, he is 23-50 with a 5.32 ERA in 125 appearances. In 31 relief appearances during that time, however, his ERA drops to 3.90, and opponents hit just .225 against him.

    "It's a no-risk deal," Rizzo said. "The expectations are that we'll look at him and hope that he can help us out."

    Wells will not be thrown directly into game action.

    "He looked good for Jimmy," Rizzo said. "But we want to see him some more. You don't know how he'll respond to the adrenaline and game action and all that. We've got time. If he's ready when we break camp, that's great, and if he's not, he can go to the minors."

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