C.J. Wilson may never have thought of himself as a reliever following his move to the bullpen in 2006 but that’s what his role was. This spring the left hander came to Rangers camp asking to compete for a spot in the rotation and the Rangers gave him a chance.
With some help from an injury to Tommy Hunter, Wilson was awarded a spot in the rotation.
His biggest asset in the bullpen was his ability to get out lefties. Big, small, good and bad he got them all. In his career lefties have hit .195 against him, right handers have hit .281. Those numbers obviously will remain a concern to the Rangers as the season starts but right now they are happy with what he brings to the mound.
In Thursdays game Wilson breezed though the Blue Jays lineup for the first four innings. Then it was time to show what he had. He gave up back to back singles to start the fifth. Wilson dug in and recorded back to back strike outs of Jose Molina and Travis Snyder before getting Mike McCoy to ground into a force out.
Thus far his goal to cut down the number of pitches was going as planned. While Wilson had thrown just 39 pitches for strikes, he had thrown just 70 pitches by the time the final out came in the fifth. Those are the type of totals you can come to expect from Wilson if he’s on this year. He’s never been the type of pitcher who has shied away from walks and yet his assortment of hard sinking pitches has allowed him to record 50% or more of his outs via ground-balls in three of the four years he spent as a reliever.
Wilson again ran into trouble to start the sixth allowing a lead off double to right handed hitting Jose Bautista and then a single to lefty Adam Lind. That prompted Mike Maddux out of the Rangers dugout with Vernon Wells coming up. Wells was struck out on a change-up. Lyle Overby made Wilson work when he came up next fouling off four pitches before being retired on a fastball. Edwin Encarnacion was then retired on a flyball to right.
When the sixth inning came to a close Wilson was up to 87 pitches for the game thanks in part to the seven strikeouts he recorded and the jams he was beginning to work himself into to start the innings.
Wilson was left in to start the seventh with the bottom of the order coming up. Alex Gonzalez flew out then Wilson struck out Jose Molina for the third time and Travis Snyder to end the inning.
In the end Wilson threw 98 pitches, 63 for strikes and set a career best with nine strike outs. His seven innings of scoreless work are unquestionably a good sign going forward.