Alex Wilson proves a surprise prize in bullpen
Anaheim, Calif. — It was mentioned to Alex Wilson late Saturday night that the Boston Red Sox perhaps gave away the wrong man.
Wilson grinned. Trades happen, and this one worked out for two parties — the Tigers and Wilson.
Wilson pitched a lovely 3-2/3 innings of relief for the Tigers Saturday in their otherwise forgettable 8-6 loss to the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim.
Eleven batters. Eleven outs. It has been like this for a 28-year-old right-hander whose ERA is a flashy 1.71 and whose reliability has been one of the sunny-side surprises for the Tigers in 2015.
Wilson wasn't expecting an early shift Saturday. Shane Greene was on the mound and Greene typically gets the Tigers into at least the mid-innings.
But five Angels home runs brought on Wilson with only two gone in the second.
"When that phone rings in the first or second inning," he said, "everyone's on edge."
Wilson is a right-handed reliever who can work in any role, including as a starter, where he was an emergency choice against the A's on Thursday.
It's an interesting evolution for a man was scarcely known when he became part of last December's trade that sent billboard pitcher Rick Porcello to the Red Sox and brought Yoenis Cespedes to Detroit.
Wilson didn't launch any fan clubs during spring camp. But after a brief trip to Triple A Toledo, he has pitched nothing but quality baseball for the Tigers: 14 games, 26-1/3 innings, 13 hits, 16 strikeouts, three walks.
He has four pitches but leans heavily on a sinking fastball.
"That's what makes things work is my fastball command," he said. "I've got to be on both sides of the plate. The ground out is my strikeout."
As they dealt with some cold bats and fans' hot tempers the Tigers at least got some upbeat news ahead of Saturday's game.
Alex Avila, who has been on the disabled list since May 8, could begin "baseball activities" when the team returns from the West Coast and begins a home series Tuesday against the A's.
"Alex texted that he feels great," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, whose team is on a two-game losing streak and whose offense has been stumbling for much of the past month.
Ausmus also said Victor Martinez, who, like Avila, has been on the disabled list due to knee problems, texted that he had "three good days!" as he battles weakness in his left knee stemming from February surgery.
The medical updates were a sign of hope for a team that has lost an excess of games and players to injury during a tough spring and first 50 games of the regular season.
The Tigers could be gaining as early as next week another player they have been without: Justin Verlander, who is set to make a rehab start Sunday at Indianapolis in a Triple A game in which he'll pitch for the Toledo Mud Hens.
If all goes well, Verlander could rejoin the Tigers in time for a start as early as next weekend.
The Tigers also expect to reunite Tuesday with starter Alfredo Simon, who has been in the Dominican Republic since Wednesday with his family as they dealt with the death of Simon's father.
Ausmus wasn't ready Saturday to detail how the Tigers might deal with an impending surplus of pitchers.
Simon's return would probably mean a quick retreat for Buck Farmer, the Triple A Toledo starter who was brought aboard originally to replace Kyle Lobstein, who went on the disabled list with a sore shoulder.
Lobstein was Verlander's fill-in after Verlander was lost in March to a strained triceps.
Kyle Ryan, a left-hander who can pitch in relief or start, is likely to hang on until Verlander rejoins the staff.