Crusty Sox defiant

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:35 AM ET

Too old. Too immature. Too many visits to the buffet table.

If David Wells listened to the critics who for years have been firing those same old tired accusations his way, he would have hung up his cleats a long time ago in order to chill with rock and roll buddies Eddie Van Halen and Lars Ulrich.

But even at age 42, the man known as Boomer is not ready to do that. Not yet.

"I hear the stuff," Wells said last night after his Boston Red Sox suffered a 9-6 defeat to the Blue Jays. "Everyone's on the bandwagon now -- he's over the hill, he's done, things like that. Well, I'm not prepared to say that yet.

"I still feel competitive."

While his, uh, round physique will never land him a cover shot on Muscle Magazine, Wells claimed fitness is not an issue.

"I'm in better shape than I have been for years," he said. "That's what makes things so frustrating right now."

Wells was cruising along nicely last night until the wheels came off in the fourth inning. The Jays lit up the veteran starter for four runs, highlighted by a two-run homer off the bat of Gregg Zaun.

Making just his second start since being sidelined for three weeks with a sprained right foot, Wells allowed five runs in 61/3 innings and saw his ERA escalate from 6.75 to 6.81.

With Wells and World Series hero Curt Schilling battling injury woes all season long, Bronson Arroyo and Matt Clement -- the right-hander who was unsuccessfully wooed by the Jays in the off-season -- have stepped it up.

Arroyo and Clement are 9-0 this season, a big reason why the defending champions are still above .500.

Arroyo returns to the mound tonight against the Jays after serving a six-game suspension for plunking Tampa Bay Devil Ray outfielder Chris Singleton during an April 24 brawlfest.

Arroyo was reacting to an incident just a half-inning earlier in which Rays reliever Lance Carter uncorked a fastball at the head of Red Sox slugger David Ortiz.

"What's the big deal?"Arroyo said last night. "Why was I suspended in the first place? I hit a guy in the hip. There is no harm there. Heck, I gave him a free base.

"When guys are throwing at other people's heads, you have to stick up for your teammates or you won't get respect from them."


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