Tigers reliever Alex Wilson looking to reclaim share of bullpen load

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Alex Wilson, right, talks with catcher James McCann, left, and first baseman John Hicks during the eighth inning against the Chicago White Sox in Chicago, on Friday.

Chicago – Alex Wilson chuckled when he saw a couple of reporters bee-lining toward him Friday.

“You guys are used to me running out there so often, I get two days off and here you are,” he said.

Well, he’s not wrong. The fact is, before he worked a clutch and eventful eighth inning Friday night, helping to preserve a 4-3 win over the White Sox, Wilson had only pitched 2.1 innings since coming off the disabled list.

Seemed fair to inquire if he was being eased back in after missing a month with plantar fasciitis in his left foot.

“I don’t know if there’s a reason behind it, or just the games have dictated the way it is,” Wilson said. “But I am 100 percent full-go.”

He made that point directly to manager Ron Gardenhire and pitching coach Chris Bosio.

“I know the first time I pitched after coming back, I was down (unavailable) the next day and we talked about that,” Wilson said. “I didn’t come off the DL to sit here after throwing six pitches. I am ready to go. I’m not holding back at all.”

His outing Friday proved there were no limitations. He had to cover first on a ball hit to the right side. He had to back up third on another hit. He had to field a bunt. And, most importantly, he had to grind out of a bases-loaded, one-out mess and protect the one-run lead.

“I felt great,” he said. “I was able to slow down the moment. I was pretty deliberate there, taking my time, thinking about what I wanted to do instead of rushing through it…They tested me. They tested my foot and my legs – my flat tires right now.

“And everything turned out well.”

He got speedy Charlie Tilson to hit a squibbed grounder to first. John Hicks threw home to get the force out and Wilson ended the threat inducing a ground ball out from Adam Engel.

Going back before the injury, Wilson has now worked nine consecutive scoreless outings (9.2 innings). He’s got six strikeouts and opponents are hitting .212. But a funny thing happened while he was on the disabled list.

Louis Coleman happened. The veteran right-hander has seized the seventh inning role with authority. He got another four key outs Friday and has limited opponents to a .180 average in 15 outings.

“Coleman has done a really nice job,” Gardenhire said. “And we can use Willie in so many ways. We can use him, because he’s so versatile, to get an out in the seventh, to pick up Coleman if he doesn’t get through it.

“When he’s right, he can get lefties out. There’s a lot of ways we can use him and we’re going to fit him right into the mold. You can’t have enough guys who can get people out.”

Wilson gave a reminder Friday night, too, that he doesn’t shy away from the high-leverage situations, either.

“It’s not my call,” he said. “I wait for the phone to ring and wait to hear my name. I feel better when I throw more. For me to throw every three days, I mean, it’s not frustrating because the games have dictated it.

“But I want to get out and throw.”  

 Twitter @cmccosky