Baltimore — The job isn’t his; not yet. But Alex Wilson made the first claim on the Tigers closer role, which was rendered vacant by the trade of Joakim Soria to Pittsburgh.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Wilson said. “I feel like I’ve been laying the ground work for that all year. To get the chance to get run back out there in the ninth, it’s just one more chance, one more opportunity to go out and prove myself.”
Wilson got the final five outs Thursday to preserve the Tigers’ 9-8 victory over the Orioles. In the eighth inning he got Manny Machado and Nolan Reimold to ground out with the tying runs on base.
In the ninth, he got the dangerous Adam Jones to ground to second and he struck out Chris Davis on a wicked cutter on the inside part of the plate. He allowed Matt Wieters a rolling single but ended the game by getting J.J. Hardy to ground out.
His first big league save.
“It’s something I’ve dreamt about for a long time,” Wilson said of closing games in the big leagues. “It’s super special to me, something I will never forget. It was kind of unconventional (five outs), but I’ll take it. If I have to run out there for five outs every time to get a win, that’s what I’ll do.”
Ausmus, though, wasn’t ready to hand him, or anybody else, the job.
“Willy was able to do the job and maybe he can continue to do the job,” he said. “But we don’t really have a bona fide closer.”
His other options, at least for now, would be Bruce Rondon, who was available Thursday, Neftali Feliz or Al Alburquerque, who was used in the seventh and eighth.
The Tigers will recall right-hander Jose Valdez from Toledo on Friday to take Soria’s spot on the 25-man roster.
“If somebody steps up and shows they can pitch in a certain slot, I will put them there,” Ausmus said. “At this point, I don’t know that we’ve seen that… People always say relievers need to be assigned roles; that pitchers like to know their roles. But you’ve got to earn a role. It’s as simple as that. They aren’t handed out. Soria earned the role of closer and he performed well for us.”
All Wilson wants is a chance to earn it.
“It means a lot,” he said. “You need an anchor down there, someone you can count on. For me, being a consistent arm for our team is a big thing.”