WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Considering Alex Wilson's track record of rough Spring Training outings, the Tigers had to prepare for the idea that their workhorse reliever might not dominate Grapefruit League opponents in his quest for a starting-rotation role.Wilson was ready. And so, after he exited Sunday's start in
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Considering Alex Wilson's track record of rough Spring Training outings, the Tigers had to prepare for the idea that their workhorse reliever might not dominate Grapefruit League opponents in his quest for a starting-rotation role.
Wilson was ready. And so, after he exited Sunday's start in the third inning after four consecutive Nationals reached base with two outs, he was focused more on the pitches than the results.
"I thought I threw one bad pitch today, the pitch to [Bryce] Harper," said Wilson, whose third-inning cutter to Harper stayed up enough for Harper to send it to the back of the right-field bullpen for his first home run of the spring. "It's the only pitch that I threw that I was thinking something else. Other than that, I thought I executed pretty well today. A couple fly balls to right were two-seamers that I pulled over the plate that I kind of got around on to right.
"Obviously the results, I would like to not give up any runs or hits. But overall, I feel really good."
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Wilson yielded three runs on five hits over 2 2/3 innings. He struck out four, but walked both of the final two hitters he faced in the third inning. He was frustrated with the home-plate umpire's strike zone on his way out.
Wilson has given up nine runs on 11 hits over four innings this spring, and 34 earned runs on 57 hits over 36 innings for his Spring Training career. It's a history the Tigers' new coaching staff is aware of.
"He's got pitches. We know he's got pitches," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "And now you just have to let him work through it. He wanted to do this. He can't get frustrated. He's got the worst ERA in baseball, I heard. But I don't really ... [care] about that right now. All we care about is his pitchability. We just want him to continue his work, and we'll see where it all breaks out as we get later into spring."
Sunday's silver lining for Wilson was his changeup, a pitch he increasingly ignored the last couple of years in relief but has dusted off for his starting audition. Wilson estimated he threw seven to 10 changeups in his 61-pitch performance. By comparison, less than 1 percent of his pitches have been changeups over the last two seasons.
Even if he ends up back in the bullpen, he believes the changeup can help him.
"I think it's going to help my game all the way around," Wilson said. "I thought guys were sitting on one pitch or another, and having that third pitch that I can throw at any time I think is going to be a big plus for me."
Wilson believes Harper had his cutter in mind when he hit it, since Wilson struck him out with the same pitch in the first inning.
In terms of pitch count, Wilson said he feels good physically and expects to make his next turn. With several Tigers starters either on the mend or being handled cautiously, Wilson is one of the few starters working on a regular schedule.
The Tigers have not yet slotted Michael Fulmer back into their Spring Training rotation following his muscular soreness in the back of his shoulder. Detroit has not announced a starter for Tuesday's game against the Yankees at Joker Marchant Stadium. Gardenhire said Fulmer would be pushed back a couple of days after being scratched from Sunday's start, so he could be an option for Tuesday. So, too, could recently added lefty Francisco Liriano, who seems to be progressing from his hamstring injury.
Tigers sign final 11 players on 40-man roster
The Tigers completed their pre-arbitration contract work by agreeing to terms on one-year contracts with 11 players, including lefty Daniel Norris, right-handers Buck Farmer, Artie Lewicki and Drew VerHagen, catcher John Hicks, third baseman Jeimer Candelario and outfielder Michael Mahtook.
Pre-arbitration players can either agree to terms on deals or have their contracts renewed by the club. The Tigers now have every player on their 40-man roster under contract for 2018.
The Tigers' visit to Florida's Atlantic coast concludes Monday with a 1:10 p.m. ET game against the Mets in Port St. Lucie. Mike Fiers will make his second start as a Tiger opposite Matt Harvey. Nicholas Castellanos and Victor Martinez are expected to join Jose Cabrera and Jose Iglesias in the starting lineup. The game is available on MLB.TV.
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.