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Randy Wells has his head in the game

Randy Wells went 6-3 with 3.90 ERA his last 13 starts 2011. | Gene J. Puskar~AP

Randy Wells went 6-3 with a 3.90 ERA in his last 13 starts in 2011. | Gene J. Puskar~AP

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Updated: March 29, 2012 8:16AM

MESA, Ariz. — The other day, Cubs manager Dale Sveum rattled off a bunch of players he considered reasons the Cubs could compete this year.

When he got to the starting rotation, he included Randy Wells.

Wells is in? He’s not one of five or six battling for two jobs?

No, that didn’t mean anything, Sveum said.

“I don’t remember what I said,” he said. “I just didn’t have enough time to go into [all the candidates].”

It figures. That’s the story of his Cubs career.

“I’m confident in myself,” said Wells, who faces yet another prove-it spring, trying to impress a third manager and third pitching coach in as many years. “And I know I haven’t probably lived up to people’s expectations over the last couple of years. But there’s probably some things behind the scenes that go into it that people don’t see.”

Of all the pitchers in camp, Wells probably fights public perception more than any other. There was overblown speculation on his late-night habits a couple years ago, expectations have been high since his impressive rookie year and he has a tendency to be his own worst critic when talking to the media.

Based on his career record, Wells probably has earned a spot in the Cubs’ rotation.

Of the pitchers with a chance to open the season in the rotation, only Matt Garza has a better career ERA than Wells’ 4.01. His strikeout, walk and hit ratios are favorable, and he has thrown 500 innings in the majors.

“I try not to think about that stuff,” said Wells, who said he has learned to tune out the static from outside voices. “It’s not my place to say or my place to decide personnel issues or stuff like that. If I go out there and pitch well, I’d like to think I can put myself in a good position to make the team.’’

The Cubs avoided arbitration with Wells in January, agreeing on a one-year, $2.7 million deal. That says something about the value the team believes he has.

If not for a forearm injury in his first start of 2011, Wells’ status might not even be open for debate.

He was the best pitcher in camp a year ago, and after struggling to get his forearm healthy after two months on the disabled list, he went 6-3 with a 3.90 ERA in his last 13 starts.

So where’s the respect?

It doesn’t matter, said Wells, who’s healthy and likes the way he’s throwing.

“You can’t get caught up in all the bull that goes with the game,” he said, “because this game’s hard enough to get guys out and win. If you dwell on the outside pressures and what people think about you or what people perceive you as, or what they think you do, then you start believing it, and then all of a sudden you get distracted from what your job is.”

Wells, 29, figures he’s that much older and wiser for what he went through the last two seasons.

Wells said watching teammates Ryan Dempster and Trever Miller deal not only with their families in general but the responsibilities of special-needs children in particular has inspired him.

A winter spent hunting Downstate with his dad and others close to him might have done even more for his peace of mind, even though they didn’t find much in the way of deer.

“Going out with my dad was as big thing,” he said. “That’s really kind of what brought me back to what’s important, your family and your friends and stuff like that, rather than getting all caught up with all the crap that goes on with being a major-league pitcher and what people think you are. It just really cleared my head.”

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