The crowd of 36,378 (the largest night game gathering in the history of Fenway) didn't mind letting Wells know just how bad it was. The boos started raining down after Alex Rios, the second batter of the game, belted a two-run shot to left. By the time Wells exited the mound with no outs in the fifth, Bronx cheers had invaded Fenway.
Wells' reaction? He just wished they were doing nothing more than hollering out the first syllable of his nickname.
"They weren't saying Boomer? I thought that's what they were saying, I really did," said Wells. "They were quick to do it, that's fine. It's not like it was a great outing, but it's fine, they're entitled to do what they want to do. I have no control over their feelings and their remarks. I have to go out there and try to keep my team in the ballgame. If you don't, you're going to get that, especially me. I know there's going to be a lot of negative things said and reactions from the people, but like I said, I can overcome that. That's not a big deal to me."
What is a big deal to Wells is trying to get in the type of groove that made him arguably Boston's best pitcher over the last four months of the 2005 season. His spring got off to a slow start as he recovered from offseason knee surgery. And the Red Sox thought it would be best to ease him a long, having Wells open the season with a Minor League rehab start instead of his regular turn in the rotation.
But when the lights officially went on for Wells in his '06 debut, he did not answer the bell like he's done so many times in his career. Instead, he looked all of his age (42 years and 11 months).
The reason was simple: His pitches got way too much plate.
"It was batting practice tonight, basically," said Wells. "I just have to be a little better. Like I said, I wasn't sharp. I left basically all the pitches down the middle of the plate. A good hitting team like Toronto, they're going to capitalize on that."
Despite it all, the Red Sox fought the good fight, getting homers from Dustan Mohr, David Ortiz and Wily Mo Pena.
"That was big," said Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek. "Wily Mo hit a mammoth one, Dustan got us right back in that game, it was big. That was good, we just weren't able to mix it up otherwise and get some runs across."
The Blue Jays had no such problems. After putting up a three-spot in the first, they came roaring back with two more in the second. Wells even walked a batter with two outs and nobody on, sparking a rally for the Blue Jays. Rios smacked an RBI double and Vernon Wells followed with an RBI single to make it 5-0.
"I think when he is really good he pounds the strike zone and stays out of the middle of the plate," said Red Sox manager Terry Francona. "He always throws strikes, but the balls were catching a lot of the plate."
There were signs that the Red Sox could get back into the game, as Mohr celebrated his return from the Minor Leagues by swatting a two-run homer over the Green Monster in the bottom of the fourth.
Any momentum generated from that shot was immediately nullified when Boomer got into trouble again in the fifth. In fact, Wells led off the inning by ripping a solo shot over the Monster. Troy Glaus followed with a single to left, and that was all for Wells. Lenny DiNardo came out of the bullpen and gave up a single to center and an RBI double to Aaron Hill, though that run was charged to Wells.
"The thing to do is to just try to keep your team in the ballgame," Wells said. "It worked for two innings and then the wheels fell off. You file this one and you try to make your next start better -- and that's the only thing that you can do in these situations."
Despite the woes of Wells, the Red Sox hung tough. Ortiz led off the fifth with a homer to right and Pena hit a solo blast to center in the sixth, cutting Toronto's lead to 7-4.
But that was as close as the Red Sox would come.
Wells has a chance to rebound in five days, when he takes the ball against the Mariners on Marathon Monday.
If anyone knows about baseball being a marathon and not a sprint, it is Wells, who has made 448 starts in his career.
"My thing is just going out there and being sharper and utilizing all my pitches and throwing them for strikes," said Wells. "That's what I didn't do tonight. The way it was tonight, hopefully the next one will be better."
As Wells would be the first to attest, it would be hard for it to be much worse.