Wilson among non-roster hopefuls for Tribe

Veteran reliever will be given opportunity to earn bullpen spot

February 15th, 2019
Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Alex Wilson throws in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Minnesota Twins in Detroit, Monday, Sept. 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)Paul Sancya/AP

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- There are a few names on the Indians' Spring Training non-roster invitee list that don't seem to belong, and manager Terry Francona's message to them has been: Don't worry.

As players report to camp, Francona takes time to sit down one-on-one with each guy to open communication between him and those on his roster, including non-roster invitee .

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"We told Alex Wilson, I can't say it in the way I told him, but that non-roster means nothing," Francona said. "He will be treated like the veteran he deserves. We fully expect at every spring, when we break Goodyear, I think we've been anywhere from one to four or five when adding non-roster players, and it's just the way teams do business now. It's the way we do.

The Indians have a history of adding non-roster players to their roster, including , and . With plenty of opportunities available in the bullpen, Wilson stands out as one who could easily follow suit.

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"We've had a lot," Francona said. "We fully expect that will happen again. That's the way we do business."

Wilson spent the previous four seasons of his six-year career with the Tigers, and the right-hander posted a 3.36 ERA and a 1.054 WHIP in 59 appearances (61 2/3 innings) last season. This is the first time in the last few years that he has to compete for a spot in Spring Training, rather than having one, but Wilson is clear that he's willing to pitch in any possible situation to make the club.

"I can do everything," Wilson said when asked what he can bring to the Tribe's bullpen. "It's not like I'm a one-inning guy. I'm not just a late-inning guy. I can throw multiple innings. I've literally done every role there is to do in a bullpen and I'm really consistent, and I think consistency is a trend that's kind of hard to find these days."

One guarantee for the Tribe's bullpen is closer . and are likely locks to return to the 'pen, but from there decisions need to be made. , and are returning options who are favorites to earn spots, while and newly-acquired will receive plenty of looks as well. With and also returning from injury, Wilson knows the path for a non-roster invitee won't be easy.

"You still try to stay within yourself and just do what you're capable of. As soon as you try to do more, that's when things go bad," Wilson said. "Yeah, it's a little bit different, but for me, I'm trying to keep my mindset as, 'All right, let's just go to work. Be you, and you has been just fine for a while now.' So just put my head down, stay consistent and keep working."

Injury report

When underwent right shoulder surgery last July, he was expected to be out for 8-12 months before he could return to full baseball activities, but Zimmer seems to be working ahead of schedule. On Friday, the outfielder took batting practice and he showed no signs of holding back.

"Guys who are coming back from injury, you hate to put timetables on because it's just not fair to them," Francona said. "I'd be comfortable saying he is kind of knocking it out of the park. He's really gotten after it, he's doing really well, he's coming quick. He's got a ways to go, but he's done a terrific job."

Tito's thoughts

There's been plenty of discussion throughout Major League Baseball and on social media about the possibility of implementing a pitch clock. On Friday, Francona shared his opinion.

"I'm not that concerned about it," Francona said. "They gave us some scenarios where like they've done it without telling people for a week at a time and they had no offenders, so I just don't think those things are quite as big of a deal as maybe us traditionalists think. I consider myself a traditionalist."