PAWTUCKET – As his stay in the major leagues expanded from days to weeks to months, Alex Wilson resisted the temptation to feel comfortable.
“I just told myself when I got there to go day to day, put your work in and see how long you can last,” said Wilson while standing in the PawSox’ clubhouse on Friday, a foreign spot to the 26-year-old considering the last time he was at McCoy Stadium, Pawtucket was getting ready for its home opener. “I think I looked up after about a month and was like, ‘Well, this is longer than I anticipated at first, but keep working hard and hopefully it will last as long as possible.’”
All told, Wilson spent exactly seven weeks as a member of Boston’s bullpen. The first big-league summons of his pro career came April 10 after John Lackey landed on the disabled list. His return to the PawSox coincided with the Red Sox heading to a National League ballpark, thus the need to carry an extra position player that turned out to be outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr.
“Unfortunately, I was on the wrong end of having too many options, but it’s a positive to know that (returning to the minor leagues) had nothing to do with my performance. It was a result of things I can’t control,” said a clearly understanding Wilson, who officially rejoined Pawtucket on Wednesday.
While Wilson’s name has been mentioned as one of the more prominent prospects in the Red Sox’s farm system the past several years, his promotion to Boston raised some question marks. For starters, how would manager John Farrell deploy the righthander? Would Wilson be strictly used in a mop-up capacity, or would he find himself called upon to pitch in high-leverage situations?
As time went on, Wilson started to earn the trust of Farrell and pitching coach Juan Nieves. He allowed runs in four of the 10 appearances he made with the Red Sox in May and went more than three days between outings just once. Though he did walk six in 12 May innings, he also struck out 11.
The rise in Wilson’s workload came after he tossed six scoreless innings spanning six outings in April. All told, he ended up appearing in 16 games with the parent club, posting a 1-0 mark and a 2.50 ERA.
“I was able to have success early on and settle in a little bit. That allowed me to start to get used more, which is always a good thing,” said Wilson. “Just like anything else, you’ve got to earn your niche, especially when you first get up there because they want to see what you can do.”
Perhaps what compelled Farrell and Nieves to trust Wilson more was that he kept displaying the same get-after-it mentality that served him well during his climb through the minors. According to fangraphs.com, Wilson threw his fastball 71.7 percent of the time while with the Red Sox. He sprinkled in his change-up 24.9 percent of time and a changeup that for the most part remained under wraps at 3.4 percent.
“The biggest thing for me was throwing strikes and competing,” Wilson acknowledged. “I had some quick innings here and there and that allowed me to do my job. When you do that, you’re going to get more opportunities.”
Wilson began last season in Pawtucket’s rotation before relocating to the bullpen. He hoped that the move would enable him to remain on the path that had treated him kindly during the 2010 and 2011 seasons when he was elevated to a higher level during the middle of the campaign.
Alas, Wilson finished the 2012 season in the same place where he started it. The 2013 season figured to play out differently for the simple reason that Boston added Wilson to the 40-man roster over the winter. Turns out he wouldn’t have to sit tight and wait for the call that he had been anticipating for quite some time.
“To get called up on the ninth day of the season was exciting and definitely encouraging,” said Wilson. “It was something that I’ve been working towards my whole life, and to have it happen so quick and early in the season was a welcome surprise.”
Wilson doesn’t expect things to change just because he’s back with the PawSox. His first outing upon returning to the Triple-A ranks came Thursday night in Indianapolis, one that saw him throw a wild pitch in the 10th inning that enabled the Indians to walk off with a 3-2 victory.
“As far as I know, I’m going to get run out there just like anybody else and get my work in and try to help this team win some games,” Wilson stated.