Wilson says move to rotation is no-lose for him or Tigers

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — Tigers pitching coach Chris Bosio ducked under the fifth amendment when he was asked Saturday about Alex Wilson’s transition to a starting role.

Tigers pitcher Alex Wilson

“We did not discuss that,” he said.


Here’s the conversation Wilson said he had with Bosio in December.

“He straight-faced asked me, do I really think I can be a starter,” Wilson said. “And I said, yeah. Then he said, ‘Awesome. That’s all I need to know.’”

Wilson said he and his agent went to general manager Al Avila soon after the World Series ended and told them he wanted to compete for a spot in the rotation.

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“It took a while for them to get back to us,” Wilson said. “I think they were plotting their moves and figuring out if it was a good or bad decision because of the bullpen situation. None of that was voiced to me; I just feel like that was probably talked about.”

For sure it was. Wilson has been a bullpen mainstay in Detroit the last three seasons.

“I think they realized, why not?” Wilson said. “If they have a starter here, untapped, that we don’t know about, why not take a shot? They’ve got nothing to lose by letting me attempt this. On both sides, we are excited to see what could happen.”

Manager Ron Gardenhire seemed to be on board with it.

“I have no problem with somebody wanting to do something, feeling confident they can do that,” he said. “It is going to be what is best for our team and what is best for him. We will have those discussions once we get to spring training and we will set it in motion.”

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Wilson announced the move to the News on Thursday. He did expect some push-back from the organization. It’s not an easy sell to take one of the more reliable arms out of a bullpen that ranked last in most categories in the big leagues last season. But none came.

“There weren’t any questions asked of me, at least none that were voiced,” Wilson said. “In their eyes and mine, I literally have nothing to lose. If I win the spot, it’s only a bonus. If I don’t, guess what, I go back to throwing the seventh and eighth innings like I always have. No harm, no foul.”

Even though Bosio didn’t want to discuss it on Saturday, he and Wilson have discussed his throwing program to help get his arm stretched out to 100 or more pitches.

“He said on Day One I would throw 45 pitches, then on Day Three I’d throw 30 and he’d put me on a five-day (regimen) immediately,” Wilson said. “Just to get your body used to it.”

Wilson, who relied almost exclusively on his sinker and cutter as a reliever, has spent the offseason developing a third and fourth weapon.

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“I am pretty comfortable throwing my curveball already,” he said. “I’ve been doing nothing but working on my change-up all winter long. When I did start before (in the minor leagues), I threw a change-up regularly. I plan on getting back to that.”

Wilson’s cutter should play well, too, because of the way, when he’s right, he can manipulate it and command it to all quadrants of the plate.

“I was a two-pitch pitcher, but what I can do is locate better than most,” he said. “I can go both sides of the plate with all of my pitches. Adding a change-up and curve will only benefit me...If you look at my last few years, when I am right, I’ve been super consistent getting quick outs and getting balls on the ground.

“As a starter, I don’t need to punch out a lot of hitters. If I can get early contact, get them to hit it on the ground, I can get through five innings in 60 or so pitches.”

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As a reliever, Wilson attacked hitters like a pit bull. He was asked on Saturday if he would have to temper his approach as a starter.

“That will not change for me,” he said. “I will be the exact same guy on the mound. I want to force it down their throat...The only thing that’s going to change for me is that I will actually know when I am going to pitch.”

Curious that Wilson would want to move to the rotation during an offseason where relief pitchers were setting the market in free agency — Mike Minor (three years, $28 million), Jake McGee (three years, $27 million), Bryan Shaw (three years, $27 million), Addison Reed (two years, $16.7 million).

Wilson, who signed a one-year deal worth $1.925 million, will be a free agent in 2020.

“That’s super exciting,” he said. “I mean, for me, worst-case I go back to the bullpen and with the way these guys are getting paid, I mean, it’s the only market that’s developing this year. It’s hard not to be excited about that.

“But money is not ever what I go into this thinking about. I like the challenge of it and I want to be a big part of this team and the rebuild and beyond it.”

Twitter @cmccosky