PAWTUCKET – Not very long ago, before the Boston Red Sox bullpen became seemingly overrun with young, hard-throwing arms, there was Alex Wilson.
Wilson’s current status is Triple-A reliever, while former PawSox like Brandon Workman, Drake Britton and Rubby De La Rosa are getting the call late in games for Boston. But back in July, it was Wilson who held down a major-league spot. What ensued was a thumb injury for Wilson that temporarily pushed the 26-year-old to the back burner and presented a chance for others to come forward.
But the make-up of major league bullpens are always fluid, especially in September, and Wilson figures to rejoin Boston once Pawtucket’s playoff run comes to an end. And as a minor-league rehabber, Wilson is eligible for the big league club’s postseason roster. But the question is, will he be afforded enough time, and innings, to demonstrate whether he fits into Boston’s postseason plans or not?
“Obviously I want to contribute in any way I can, but it’s hard to do that when you’re here,” said Wilson prior to the PawSox facing the Durham Bulls in Game 3 of the Governors’ Cup finals. “There’s a lot of young guys up there who are fighting for spots. So far, Workman and De La Rosa have done their part and Britton is another guy who’s contributing.
“I was the first (PawSox pitcher) called up this year and was with Boston for much of the year before I got hurt,” added Wilson. “Unfortunately I went down, but fortunately for the Red Sox, others were able to step up and fill the spot. That’s what good teams do – next man up.”
To the best of his ability, Wilson laid out his pitching itinerary prior to Friday’s playoff 14-inning affair at McCoy Stadium. He ended up facing the Bulls for the second time in the finals – he was the winning pitcher in Pawtucket’s 2-1 win in Game 1 – before waiting to see what happens next.
“For me, the best thing I can do is take it day-by-day like everybody else and see where we end up,” Wilson cautiously expressed. “I don’t have a definite answer on how it may go if I go back up or what’s the next step if I don’t go back up.”
There was a time when Wilson didn’t think he would get back on a mound again this season, one that saw the 2009 draft pick make his major-league debut. His first comeback attempt from the thumb ailment that landed on the disabled list on July 9 was a bumpy one as onetime minor-league starter was shut down following five appearances with the PawSox.
After spending 3 ½ weeks trying to strengthen the tender spot, the Red Sox opted to re-set Wilson’s rehab clock. His first appearance on his second go-around with the PawSox took place Aug. 30 – exactly one month from when he made his first appearance on his initial rehab go-around.
“It’s been frustrating, but you’ve got to roll with the punches. This is the first time that I’ve missed any time whatsoever since I had Tommy John surgery seven years ago,” Wilson. “It kind of fell apart at the end when my thumb was really bothering me, but I think if I can get healthy again, there’s no reason for me to get back to the way I was performing before it was affecting the way I was throwing my pitches.
“I lost a lot of grip strength. That’s why you’re not seeing me go back-to-back days right now,” Wilson continued. “We’re basically trying to get my body on a schedule to where I can handle the pain and get the strength back in-between outings. We’re heading in the direction – the grip strength is getting better with time. Now we’re able to manipulate the ball, which is the biggest thing for me as a pitcher.”
Wilson closed the regular season with two scoreless appearances with the PawSox. His playoff ERA is an unsightly 11.57 in 2.1 innings spanning three appearances. The bulk of the damage occurred last Saturday against Rochester when Wilson was victimized for three runs on four hits in one-third of an inning.
“It’s good to get into different situations and into a game that means something,” said Wilson when asked if contributing in a postseason setting has helped the time pass by a little quicker. “Every game up (in the big leagues) means something. Not that the ones down here don’t, but pitching in a championship series, there’s a little pressure added, which is a good thing.”
Follow Brendan McGair on Twitter @BWMcGair03