10/24/2003 1:09 AM ET
Wells ends not so well
Back spasms force Boomer's early exit
Wells discusses why he left Game 5 early
MIAMI -- David Wells' second shot at the Marlins in this World Series got off to a great start.
By Doug Miller / MLB.com
Eight pitches and one inning later, however, it dissolved into a disappointing, troubling finish.
Wells, the Yankees' 40-year-old left-hander, pitched a scoreless first inning in Thursday's Game 5 in Pro Player Stadium, but he was removed from the game because of lower back spasms resulting from a recurring lumbar disc condition.
The Yankees had a 1-0 lead when he departed, but it quickly became a 3-1 Marlins lead in the second when Jose Contreras came in and couldn't find the strike zone.
The Yankees were forced to also use Chris Hammond and Jeff Nelson, and after Derrek Lee recorded the last out of a 6-4 Marlins victory, the Yankees trailed Florida three games to two and were one loss from elimination.
"I was warming up and it started biting a little bit," Wells said. "I just tried to get through my bullpen, but it started spasming up a little bit. I stepped off, waited a couple of minutes and started throwing again, but it just wasn't subsiding. The one that did it was a curveball to Pudge. I threw it right into the ground and I knew I was done."
The sight of Wells walking off the hill at such an early stage of the game was shocking to some.
"It wasn't just Wells leaving that shocked me," Lee said. "It was (Alfonso) Soriano not starting. It was (Jason) Giambi not starting. Two great hitters and the starter all gone? You better take advantage of that."
The Marlins did.
Contreras walked three batters and gave up an RBI double to Alex Gonzalez and a two-run single to Marlins pitcher Brad Penny in the second inning. Two frames later, Lee led off with a single off Contreras and scored on a Juan Pierre double.
"He was there, but he just got tired," catcher Jorge Posada said of Contreras, who gave up four runs in three innings. "Obviously his legs have a big part of him struggling today. He had no legs."
Yankees manager Joe Torre expanded on that theory.
"He couldn't get the ball down because he was muscling it," Torre said. "He looked like he was getting anxious trying to throw the ball. When he tried to throw the fastball too hard instead of staying within rhythm, he couldn't get the ball down."
Enrique Wilson, who replaced slumping Soriano at second, made a fielding error in the fifth that led to the two decisive -- and unearned -- runs off the left-handed Hammond, who made his first postseason appearance this year.
Hammond said he was excited to come into a World Series game, but he added that Wells' early departure tempered those emotions significantly.
"When Boomer's back bothers him, he usually pitches well," Hammond said. "So when he was warming up and it was bothering him, we were like, 'Sweet.' But it just didn't work out that way. After the first inning, the phone rang and I'm like, 'Shoot. Here we go.'"
Yankees pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre said he figured initially that Wells would be OK, too.
"He was very stiff in the bullpen, but it's been like that before and he's loosened up over the course of the game," Stottlemyre said. "Today it just wasn't anything he could work his way through."
After the inning, Wells was examined in the clubhouse by team physician Dr. Stuart Hershon, who gave him the game-ending diagnosis.
"You want to try to go out there and give your team quality innings, but I'm not going to risk my health," Wells said. "I tried doing it, and if I'd had gone back out there, I'd have fallen right to the ground."
It was the shortest outing by a starter in a World Series game since Mark Thurmond of the San Diego Padres went one-third of an inning in Game 5 of the 1984 Fall Classic against the Detroit Tigers.
Thursday night was not the first time Wells has injured his back.
He missed most of the second half of the 2001 season with the Chicago White Sox because of back surgery, then signed with the Yankees before the 2002 season after a last-minute meeting with New York owner George Steinbrenner.
"It's similar to what I did in 2001 with Chicago," Wells said. "It's one of those things, it took its toll, and right now, I'm just trying to get through it. If it subsides, great. If not, we'll deal with it later on."
It's possible that the pitch Rodriguez hit to Wells for the last out of his only inning Thursday night was his last as a Yankee.
Wells said Wednesday he wants to pitch another season. New York can buy him out for $1 million or exercise his option for $6 million.
"It could be my last game for the Yankees, but I hope it's not," he said about Game 5.
"It's out of my hands. It's up to George Steinbrenner if they want to exercise my option. If they don't, then I move on. It's been great. It's been fun. It's a great organization. A great bunch of guys."
On Thursday, Wells had even more than those issues to ponder.
"I didn't expect this," Wells said. "I was looking forward to this start. It could possibly have been my last World Series start, and I wanted to go out with a good outing.
"That didn't happen, so right now, I'm looking to get healthy, be able to walk in 10 years."
Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to approval by Major League Baseball or its clubs.