Detroit Tigers’ versatile reliever Alex Wilson working to get back to full strength and solidify bullpen
Alex Wilson was a revelation in 2015. In a season where the Tigers bullpen suffered through injuries and disappointment, Wilson was the mainstay, performing at a high level in every conceivable situation.
Wilson came to the Tigers from the Red Sox before 2015. Truth be told, he was an afterthought and a long shot to make the roster. He made his debut in late April against the Indians, and quite frankly, he didn’t blow anyone away with the stuff he was featuring. Sure, he gave up just one earned run over three innings, but he wasn’t expected to ever contribute much more than that. The Tigers lost that game, 13-1, and that was supposed to Wilson’s role: come in for long relief when the team is getting blown out.
Low and behold, Wilson continued to turn in solid outings, impressing manager Brad Ausmus enough to start trying him out in late-game situations. Eventually, due to injuries, Wilson became a reliable seventh and eighth inning guy, even picking up two saves along the way.
Working through shoulder soreness this spring
The downside to Wilson’s work load last season was that he more than doubled his innings pitched from the previous season. Wilson through 70 innings in 2015 after throwing just 28.1 and 27.2 in his first two seasons in the major leagues.
The prognosis doesn’t look too bleak right now. Wilson has thrown a couple bullpen sessions with no sign of soreness, but his availability for opening day is up in the air.
It’s possible the Tigers leave him in Lakeland for an extended spring training stay.
Trying to carve out a role
With the many offseason bullpen signings of Francisco Rodriguez and Mark Lowe to pitch the late innings, the Tigers won’t need Wilson to play the set up or closer role this season. If he can regain the form he displayed last season, he’ll still be a valuable part of what should be a vastly improved group of relievers.
I believe the Tigers really want to see what they have in Wilson this year. I think they believe in him and trust his stuff. I can see him carving out a role as their all-important seventh inning guy, quite possibly coming in during a key situation in the sixth inning before being trotted back out for the seventh. He’s got the experience of pitching multiple innings to go with the experience of pressure situations.
What the Tigers need to do is to keep Wilson out of long relief. If he’s as good as he showed in 2015, then he is too valuable to let the innings pile up. He suffered from a little soreness at the tail end of last season. And although the team is saying that the soreness he is feeling in spring training is unrelated, I’m still a bit unsure. Make this kid your sixth/seventh inning guy with the option of pitching both in a tight game.
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