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Kip Wells may be new ace in Pirates' rotation



Published: Fri, January 25, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



He came from the Chicago White Sox in a winter deal.

By TOM WILLIAMS

VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF

YOUNGSTOWN -- With Kris Benson out until at least June and Todd Ritchie traded to the Chicago White Sox, Kip Wells could be the new ace of the Pirates rotation.

The 24-year-old right-hander, who compiled a 20-21 record in three seasons with the White Sox, was traded to Pittsburgh in a winter deal for Ritchie.

"I'm looking forward to it," said Wells, who was part of the Pirates' caravan that visited town Thursday. "I've already been at both ends of the spectrum -- the top of the rotation and the bullpen. I fell I am as qualified as anybody on the staff to handle [the No. 1 role]."

Another newcomer: Also coming to Pittsburgh are 30-year-old Sean Lowe (17-11 overall) and 25-year-old Josh Fogg.

Dave Littlefield, the Pirates general manager, said Ritchie was one of the few players on his roster that drew interest from other clubs.

"We had known that Todd Ritchie was someone people were interested in," Littlefield said. "We knew that if we had to trade a starter, that we had to get at least one starter in return.

"We felt Wells was one of those guys who had a high ceiling, but yet had a fair amount of major league experience," Littlefield said. "I'm convinced quality pitching is the way to get better and stay there."

Littlefield also praised the acquisition of Lowe.

"Lowe is such a good fit for us. He's 30-years old, he's started and relieved. With so many young starters, there are going to be times where we may need [an extra] starter."

Wells admitted he was surprised by the trade.

"In September, I had heard that I was going to be traded, but then the talk kind of died down," said Wells after his 10-11 season. "Of course it was a somewhat of shock when it happened."

Despite baseball's lack of a contract with the players union, Wells said he expects he'll be in Bradenton, Fla., in two weeks to get ready for Opening Day on April 1.

Confident: "I don't know what type of agreement we need to make everyone feel content, but I'm sure we will arrive at one, whether it's next week or next year," Wells said.

The Texas native said baseball fans should forget about a salary cap cleaning up the sport's financial problems.

"I don't think baseball will ever conform to the same qualifications [as the NFL]," Wells said. "The players union in baseball is as strong as any union in any business, whether it's sports or the business world.

"From that standpoint, I don't want to be handled the same way as the NFL players where on any given day your job security becomes even less," Wells said.




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