|C.J. Wilson offers Daniel Bard an offseason invitation||07.10.12 at 9:07 pm ET|
KANSAS CITY — C.J. Wilson is sort of the patron saint of relievers who are being considered for a conversion to the rotation. It is a role that he embraces.
For the 31-year-old, the decision by the Rangers (which followed years of sleeve-tugging insistence by Wilson that he was suited to start) to convert him transformed his career. In 2 1/2 years in that role, Wilson has gone from a middle reliever to one of the top starters in the game, someone who is now 40-20 with a 2.99 ERA since the start of the 2010 season, resulting in both a pair of All-Star berths as well as a five-year, $77.5 million contract from the Angels this past offseason.
He is mindful of the significance of the opportunity that he was afforded, and he wants to serve as a resource to any other pitcher making that move.
“If there is anyone who is converting to a starter, if they want to consult me, I have an open-door policy,” said Wilson, who is 9-5 with a 2.43 ERA this year. “I feel like there’s some stuff that I’ve done that’s a little bit outside the box that really helped out. I think it’s essential that pitchers handle it a certain way.”
Wilson pays attention to those who undertake the transition, and so he was extremely curious to see how Daniel Bard would fare when the Red Sox placed him in the rotation to start the season. While the left-hander was (and is) a believer in Bard’s stuff, he also thought that the Red Sox pitcher was moving to the rotation in a more challenging environment than the one in which Wilson emerged as a top starter.
“I feel like Daniel has, obviously, a phenomenal fastball, he runs it up to 100 mph, and as a starter I was curious to see if he was going to physically back down and try to go slower or if he was going to change his mechanics,” said Wilson. “I think it’s something that, he’s still a young player. I was almost 30 years old when I did it.
“It’s something that, I had experienced starting already [in the minors]. But I think that with time comes learning. There’s no real margin for error in the AL East, so it was a situation where if Daniel wasn’t going to be successful right away, he was going to have a tough time getting a chance to get the innings.”
Indeed, Bard remained in the majors for just two months before the Sox felt compelled to send him to the minors after he struggled to a 5-6 record and 5.24 ERA while walking 37, hitting eight and striking out 34. Since his demotion, Bard has endured dramatic inconsistencies in Triple-A Pawtucket, backing up impressive outings with disastrous ones en route to an 8.16 ERA with 10 walks (and 16 strikeouts) in 14 1/3 innings.
For this year, Bard will remain a reliever for 2012, with the Red Sox hoping that he might be able to restore the form that made him one of the top relievers in the game from 2009-11. Longer-term, while the bullpen now seems like Bard’s future, the team did not rule out the possibility of renewing the experiment of shifting Bard’s station in the game back into the rotation after 2012.
If Bard does take another crack at starting, Wilson is more than happy to lend his services to the enterprise.
“I would totally welcome him to come work out with me in LA this offseason if he wanted to, if he wants to talk about it or whatever,” said Wilson. “I want to see talented guys succeed. I feel like he deserves that in the sense that he has the talent.”
Yet even if Bard never seeks his counsel, Wilson did offer a message of hope for the pitcher. He noted that, in 2008, he endured a season of significant struggles after the Rangers entrusted him with the closer’s role. After forging a 3.03 ERA in 2007, he was tagged to the tune of a 6.02 mark in 2008.
“I was pitching hurt, with bone chips, bone spurs. I just kept trying to go out there and it didn’t help me out. I ended up putting up bad results, and I kind of had to win everybody over again in 2009,” recalled Wilson. “It was a totally lost year in my career. So I can relate to a guy who gets into Triple-A and has a bad year, because I had the same thing happen in ’08.”
Wilson bounced back in 2009 out of the bullpen, producing a 2.81 ERA and showing the kind of stuff that convinced the Rangers to give him a shot at a rotation spot. He hasn’t looked back since. And if he can help Bard enjoy a similar return to recent success, Wilson is more than happy to help.
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