From Down Under to On the Rise

(Bill Vaughan)

By David Driver, Special Correspondent / Bowie Baysox | July 12, 2019 1:57 PM

As a young boy growing up in Australia, Alex Wells was a big fan of the New York Mets and left-handed pitcher Johan Santana.

"I tried to mimic him and I idolized him," said Wells, standing outside of the Baysox clubhouse before a recent game.

Wells watched how Santana utilized his changeup, and now one of the top Orioles prospects is using that pitch to retire batters at the minor league level.

Signed by the Orioles in 2015, Wells has put together a solid season as one of several promising pitchers for Bowie.

In his first 11 starts this year, he was 5-1 with an ERA of 1.90. He did allow a run in three straight starts in May.

Wells has thrived under Bowie pitching coach Kennie Steenstra, an instructor in the system for several years.

"It is a new level and you are seeing keys for the first time," said Wells, who appeared in the Futures Game at Nationals Park last summer while with the Class-A Advanced Frederick Keys. "He is always there to talk."

Wells has certainly listened.

"I work on all three pitches consistently," he said. "They always need work. I just make sure I'm in step with the pitching coach and other guys on the team; we help each other out."

Wells, 22, has also benefitted from being part of a prospect-laded rotation with the Baysox.

The lefty began this year as the No. 26 prospect in the Baltimore system, according to MLB.com.

Other pitchers who have been with Bowie this year include Zac Lowther (No. 8), Dean Kremer (No. 9), Hunter Harvey (12) and Dillon Tate (17).

Another lefty in the rotation is Baltimore native Bruce Zimmermann, who is from Woodstock, Maryland.

Wells has followed Lowther in the rotation and that has been a learning tool.

"We generally face the same team," Wells said. "It helps that he pitches the day before me. We talk about what happens when he is out there and talk about what hitters to stay away from. It helps to have a pitcher like that in front of me (in the rotation)."

Last year, the Orioles got an influx of talent when the club traded Major League veterans. That included the arrival of Kremer and Tate, among others.

"It makes you hungry to go out there and pitch," Wells said. "Even though you are friends, you have to go out there and compete."

Off the field, Wells has lived this summer with three teammates in an apartment near Prince George's County Stadium.

To relax, he enjoys playing golf, and he likes watching movies on the bus during road trips.

Wells began playing at an early age in Australia, where baseball has become increasing popular with several natives making it to North America and the minor leagues.

He saw his first Major League game IN California.

"I was on a family vacation and we went to see the Royals versus the Angels in Anaheim when I was 13 or 14," he said.

His twin brother, Lachlan, plays - fittingly - in the Minnesota Twins farm system. The pitcher has not appeared in a pro game since 2017 due to injury.

Wells has put himself in position to one day help the Orioles.

"So far he has done everything we have asked of him," Steenstra said. "He throws a lot of strikes and he works really fast. He changes speeds and mixes location. He doesn't have an overpowering fastball, but enough of one to get on some guys. We have worked on him to be consistent down in the zone with his fastball. You can never have enough lefties."

Editor's note: David Driver is a free-lance writer from Cheverly who has covered the Baysox since their inception in the 1990s. He has contributed to Orioles Magazine and mlb.com and can be reached at davidsdriver.com and @DaytonVaDriver.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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