On Friday, Nick Wells stood in the Giant check-out line in Dominion Valley ready to pay for his groceries when his phone rang. Wells immediately recognized the number. It belonged to Mark Scialabba, the Washington Nationals assistant general manager in charge of player development.
Wells handed his charge card to his girlfriend Sophie and stepped away from the counter. The Battlefield High School graduate needed to take this call.
Once Sophie finished paying, she looked over at Wells and figured he’d received good news.
“I could see you smiling through your mask,” she told him.
Sophie was right. Scialabba informed Wells the Nationals were including him in their 60-player pool going into this week’s summer training camp. The camp is scheduled to start Friday with small-group workouts at Nationals Park as major league baseball teams prepare for a 60-game regular season that will begin with Opening Day in late July.
Wells remembers touring the field and dugout at Nationals Park with his youth travel team. But he’s never seen the clubhouse.
“It’s exciting,” Wells said. “It’s going to be more crazy when I drive there and see my name in the locker.”
Wells thought the Nationals might bring him in in some form. The first clue came a month ago when Scialabba checked in with Wells to see how he was doing and provide some updates.
Scialabba wanted Wells to know how highly he and the other coaches in the organization thought of him. And although nothing was guaranteed and Scialabba did not have the final say, he wanted Wells to also know that he might get a call if the Nationals held some type of camp or formed a developmental squad once the 2020 season was officially a go.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Wells said. “But there’s still a lot of work to do. This is a step in the right direction.”
MLB teams had until 4 p.m. Sunday to submit a maximum of 60 players that are comprised of those on the 40-man roster and those, like Wells, on the non 40-man roster.
Teams are allowed 30 players on their roster for the first two weeks of the season followed by 28 on the 15th day of the season and 26 two weeks after that.
In addition, the active roster can add a maximum of three additional taxi squad spots for road games. The taxi squad must include one catcher. The other two spots can either be pitchers or position players.
Those players who do not make the season-opening roster will be assigned to another training site where they will train and remain on standby for promotion to the big-league team.
Fredericksburg, Washington's High-A affiliate, is reportedly expected to serve as the Nationals' alternate training site for their non-active pool players.
Wells said the Nationals have kept a close eye on him after a trade last May with Seattle in exchange for right-hander Austin Adams.
Washington liked how he looked in instructional ball and then in spring training before everything shut down in mid-March because of the coronavirus outbreak. Wells was scheduled to pitch for the second time in spring training when Nationals announced they were sending players home.
“They are excited about the progress I’ve made,” said the 6-foot-5 left-handed Wells who has added 20 pounds to his 6-foot-5 frame.
Wells appeared on schedule to begin the season at Fredericksburg. Instead, he headed back to Prince William County. He worked out by himself three days a week at Ronald Reagan and Bull Run middle schools and threw bullpen sessions two other days at Bull Run with two catchers from Battlefield, 2020 graduate Peter Benavides and rising senior Tucker Williams.
With the minor league season doubtful (it was officially cancelled Tuesday), Wells remained focused on doing what he could to stay in shape.
“I still saw this as a developmental year with things to work on,” Wells said. “There was still time to get better.”
Wells understands the health concerns as the baseball season ramps back up and the need to take all the necessary precautions seriously in combating the spread of the virus.
“You do the smart thing,” Wells said. “I’m going to do everything in my power not to get it.”
As a member of the Nationals’ 60-player pool, Wells joins a number of other young pitchers in the Nationals' minor-league system he has become close friends with, including Jackson Rutledge, Matt Cronin and Jake Irvin among others.
A third-round pick in 2014 out of Battlefield by Toronto, Wells has yet to pitch above Class A in six seasons. He has a career record of 21-34 and a 5.20 ERA with seven teams. He missed most of the 2019 season after suffering a fractured left wrist when he was hit by a 101 mile per hour line drive that April. He finished last season with low-A Hagerstown.
Wells said he has seen his confidence rise with the Nationals.
“It’s a whole change of scenery,” Wells said. “They genuinely care and want me to succeed. All the coaches and coordinators are like that.”