SARASOTA, Fla. — Tyler Wells arrived in Bowie wondering what his next steps were.

The right-hander had thrown better than just about any Orioles pitcher over the first half of the 2023 season and earned a rotation spot. But his season hit a wall shortly after the All-Star break. Wells had three brief, poor outings, short-circuiting his breakout campaign and leaving him to pick up the pieces at Double-A Bowie.

In demoting him, the Orioles’ decision-makers emphasized, they offered Wells a reset. But, in the immediate aftermath, the 29-year-old had a decision to make. How would he respond?

“One of the things that I learned in the minor leagues with the Twins is, they had a really good saying,” said Wells, who spent the first four years of his pro career in the Minnesota system. “Events plus the reaction equals the outcome.”

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There was no time or space, then, for Wells to sulk. He poured his focus into converting into a reliever. He returned to the majors late in 2023 to play a role in closing out an AL East title. And, over the winter, Wells has dedicated himself to finding an answer to last season’s hindrances.

Wells doesn’t need to prove to anyone — to himself, the front office or to the hitters he will face — that he has the potential of being a top-end starter. Especially with Kyle Bradish’s UCL sprain, Wells has an inside track to starting again for Baltimore.

Wells does need to prove, however, that he can be his dominant self on the mound for a full season, and that’s where his offseason training regimen came into play. Wells adopted a different winter approach than the year before, spending less time on managing his weight and instead homing in on getting stronger.

He lifted. He ran. He threw.

Each repetition and drill came with the central idea that Wells would have the stamina to make more starts.

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“This year, I kind of bulked up in muscle size, trying to make sure that my body is able to handle a spread-out workload over the course of a year,” Wells said. “How can we, from start to start, maximize my recovery to make sure things like this don’t happen? We definitely took a different approach, and so far everything is feeling really good.”

Wells concentrated on the quality of his workouts in the gym, tracking noticeable improvements in strength. And he plotted how he can alter his in-season routine to allow for the most recovery between outings.

He’s a “routine-oriented person,” which lends itself well to a pitcher’s weekly schedule. But it also made his midseason option to Double-A a major hurdle.

Wells impressed to begin the 2023 season. He filled in for the injured Bradish as an emergency reliever against the Texas Rangers in April, throwing five perfect innings. He maintained the momentum from there, holding a 3.18 ERA in 18 appearances. For a player who has experienced fluctuation at every turn of his major league career, the first half of 2023 was a welcome run in the rotation.

Wells joined the Orioles from the Minnesota Twins through the Rule 5 draft in 2020. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Banner)

He was Baltimore’s closer in 2021, and in 2022 his innings were still closely monitored as a result of his 2019 Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery. It appeared as if 2023 would be the year everything clicked, and then Wells started three games in July that changed the outlook.

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In those nine innings, Wells allowed 11 runs. He was back in the minors shortly thereafter.

“Going through the whole optioning process and being away from the team, I would definitely say, was the low point for me,” Wells said. “But I think the biggest lesson, or the biggest thing I took away from last year, was just that this game can bring you in and spit you out as fast as it wants to, and I think that’s where it leads back to focusing on your daily routines and daily things you can control, because at that point you’re giving yourself the best opportunity each day to succeed.”

Over the course of two months, Wells rested an arm that manager Brandon Hyde said “just got tired,” then he fervently trained with a new goal in mind: returning to the majors as a reliever. His four appearances upon returning to the Orioles? Five hitless innings.

Suddenly, Wells looked himself again, and it carried into three spotless postseason appearances.

“He didn’t go down and pout,” catcher James McCann said. “That means a lot to a clubhouse when you have someone of that nature. He very easily could have gone down there and done the opposite, but he didn’t and all the power to him.”

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The strong beginning to Wells’ 2023 season proved he can be a starting pitcher at this level. The strong finish led him into the offseason with renewed confidence. And, because Bradish is injured and left-hander John Means is behind schedule on his throwing program, Wells is again a favorite for a place in the rotation.

Should he secure that role, Wells feels his offseason training tweaks and in-season start-to-start recovery work will help maintain it over the course of the season. Then again, Wells knows the whims of a baseball season don’t always flow through him.

“If I’m focusing solely on results, I’m not going to get very far,” Wells said. “If I’m focusing on the process, what I’m doing in between starts, taking care of my business, my work, then that’s where it starts to flourish.”