TAMPA, Fla. -- David Wells struggled in his second spring start, giving up five runs and failing to cover first base in the New York Yankees' 12-2 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday.
Wells, who allowed nine hits in three innings, was booed by the Legends Field crowd of 10,115 after failing to cover first base in the third inning. The play that brought back memories of Hideki Irabu's failure to cover first in 1999, which caused owner George Steinbrenner to call him a "fat ... toad."
Johnny Estrada hit the liner that caused the trouble Wednesday, a ball that deflected off the glove of diving first baseman Todd Zeile and went to second baseman Alfonso Soriano.
"I saw it glance off his glove," Wells said. "I thought it was in the hole honestly. It was my fault.
"With a guy at second, I turned around and started to go the other way (to back up third base). It went right to Soriano, and then you hear all the (boos). That's something that goes with the territory."
Yankees manager Joe Torre said he wasn't overly concerned because the play occurred during spring training.
"He's got to be heading in that direction (toward first)," Torre said. "I think he just assumed the ball was going to be in right field."
Five of the hits off Wells were infield singles. He was charged with an error when his throw on a Estrada's potential double-play grounder in the second went into center field. Wells also was also hit in the right foot by Javy Lopez's single earlier in the second.
"Boomer, I thought he threw the ball pretty well," Torre said. "They didn't hit very many balls hard. However, he didn't execute fundamentally on the ball back to the mound and covering first. I'm sure they'll be extra work for all the pitchers because of it."
Wells has had a controversial spring training following the release of galleys of his autobiography, which made claims of steroid and amphetamine use in the major leagues. Wells said in the galleys he was "half-drunk" when he pitched a perfect game for the Yankees in 1998.
"I've had to go out and get my work done, that's all," Wells said. "I block everything out. I can do that."
he 39-year-old left-hander could be punished by the team for the book that general manager Brian Cashman said "tarnishes the Yankees' image." Wells apologized to Cashman on Saturday and addressed his teammates Sunday about the book, "Perfect I'm Not! Boomer on Beer, Brawls, Backaches & Baseball.
Cashman completed reading Wells' book Tuesday night and has begun consulting with team officials about the matter. He has not spoken with baseball commissioner Bud Selig.
"It's an issue I'm dealing with," Cashman said. "The reason I read the book was because I wanted to see if there's anything that concerned me."
Atlanta scored four runs in both the second and fourth innings. Gary Sheffield had two RBIs as nine Braves drove in runs.
Braves starter Horacio Ramirez allowed four hits in three scoreless innings.
Atlanta's Chipper Jones went 1-for-3 in his return from a thumb injury. After going hitless in two at-bats against Wells, Jones doubled off Jorge DePaula.
"He talked to me this morning and said he feels absolutely nothing," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "No pain."
Notes: Torre said he no plans to read Wells' book. "I'm not boycotting it," Torre said. "I'm really not curious. I don't read a lot, especially during the season." ... New York 1B Jason Giambi missed the game with abdominal muscle stiffness. ... Hall of Famer and Yankees' spring training instructor Whitey Ford arrived in camp. ... The Yankees hired former pitcher Jimmy Key as a consultant. ... The father of Japanese slugger and Yankees' LF Hideki Matsui is expected to attend Thursday night's game against Philadelphia.
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