Tigers' Alex Wilson thrives as versatile reliever

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Manager Brad Ausmus will happily discuss the role reliever Alex Wilson has earned with the Tigers, as soon as he decides which role, or roles, is best.

"He's definitely earned it, but I can't really give you his role because we've been using him all over the place," he said, after Wilson pitched scoreless 10th and 11th innings to earn his first win for the Tigers Thursday. "He was going to go out for a third inning today, so he can pitch long relief like that.

"He can get a couple of right-handers out if we need it in the seventh and eighth. He doesn't seem to be bothered by tight games. He gives us a lot of versatility."

Wilson has now gone his last 122/3 innings without allowing a run. He went through the first seven hitters in the Astros lineup Thursday, allowing only a two-out double to Colby Rasmus in the 11th.

"I just take pride in being ready any time my name is called," Wilson said. "I go through my own routine during the game. I have my own little things that I do, to kind of mentally stay prepared. It's just one inning at a time.

"When it gets to a situation where I think they may use me, I just kind of mentally prepare, game-plan for who's coming up."

Wilson has not appeared out of thin air. It only seems like it.

He may have been considered a throw-in in the Rick Porcello-for-Yoenis Cespedes trade, but the Tigers did their homework on him.

He was a second-round pick out by the Red Sox out of Texas A&M in 2009. He was impressive in a short, 18-game stint with the Red Sox last year, posting a 1.91 ERA and a .0882 WHIP in 281/3 innings.

The problem was, that guy didn't show up in Lakeland, at least not at first. His mechanics were completely out of whack. He has a short-arm delivery when he's right and it had gotten somehow very long.

"In spring training, he kind of struggled a little bit," Ausmus said. "I think he was off mechanically. He was flying off the ball, he had trouble with his command, leaving balls over the middle, or yanking them out of the zone. But since the time we sent him down, and the start of the season in Toledo, he's done an outstanding job."

Actually, Wilson said it took him only a couple of bullpen sessions to iron out his mechanical flaws once he was sent down to the minor league camp in March.

"The way he pitched today, the way he gave us a chance to win, that was just as important as the walk-off home run," said catcher James McCann who hit the walk-off winner.

Wilson, of course, disagreed with that.

"He's going to be a household name," Wilson said of his catcher. "He's my favorite for Rookie of the Year this year."