His iPad featured so much evidence of failure, the hundreds of unsuccessful at-bats accrued during his miserable two seasons as a Los Angeles Angel. As Vernon Wells pondered how to revive his career this winter, he sought solutions inside a collection of scratched DVDs at his home in Southlake, Texas.

Some were more than a decade old, video from as far back as 1999, when he debuted with the Blue Jays. His swing from the past was short and quick — and still possible to re-create all these years later, he determined. "That was something I wanted to get back to," he said.

In the final week of March, the Yankees shelled out more than $13 million for Wells in a desperate move to remedy their reeling lineup. The move elicited scorn among fans. In recent years Wells has been jeered at home and insulted about the heft of his contract. He tore a ligament in his thumb. Playing time shriveled.

Now, through the first three weeks of this season, he has emerged as one of the Yankees’ most reliable contributors. He swatted his fifth homer this season and scored the go-ahead run in yesterday’s 5-3 victory over Toronto in 11 innings. He added a pair of opposite-field singles to boost his on-base plus slugging percentage to 1.032.

His revival comes as a surprise. The combination of his cumbersome contract and a steep decline rendered Wells a prop for comics in the baseball community. After the trade, the well-regarded analytic site FanGraphs.com posted an article titled "Yankees Acquire Vernon Wells On Purpose."

The criticism was reasonable. With the Angels from 2011 to 2012, Wells managed a lowly .258 on-base percentage, the second-worst mark among batters with 750 plate appearances. Only current Marlins sinkhole Miguel Olivo (.248) was more proficient at making outs. At 34, Wells looked like a three-time All-Star sputtering through the final stages of his career.

The negative results worsened his body language. An American League talent evaluator likened the situation to one faced by Jason Bay with the Mets. "He was bad," said the scout, who requested anonymity in order to discuss another team’s players. "And just looked like he didn’t want to be there."

Wells portrayed himself as "constantly searching for something" the past two years. Inside the heat of a season, he explained, change can be difficult. He knew he had developed a tendency to focus only on hitting home runs. Yet it was not until the offseason, when he played the old DVDs, that he could tweak his approach.