The excitement that came with the notion of getting a full season’s worth of Brian Wilson setting up Kenley Jansen came to a grinding halt in San Diego during the Los Angeles Dodgers’ second regular-season game.
With the Dodgers leading 1-0, Wilson took the mound in the eighth inning as he did so often in 2013. However unlike last season, instead of getting out of the inning with the Dodgers still leading, the right-hander allowed a game-tying home run to the first batter he faced.
The situation would get worse for Wilson as he committed an error, which eventually led to an RBI single that put the Padres ahead 3-0. The former San Francisco Giants closer failed to record an out and he was placed on the disabled list two days later with nerve irritation in his right elbow.
As his stint on the DL came to an end, the reliever proclaimed he was ready to return and had simply needed more work, which he was afforded in rehab assignments.
Fifteen appearances later and it’s evident the 32-year-old still needs to iron out some kinks or he’s simply no longer the pitcher he was — 2013 may have been a flash in the pan.
Wilson’s struggles this season have stripped the reliever of his exclusive role as the team’s setup man. The change has been a difficult one, Wilson admitted to the Orange County Register’s Pedro Moura:
Wilson admits now he has “probably” found it harder to adapt to a less prominent role in the bullpen than he expected. Asked for a word to describe the experience this season, he offers, “Trying.”
While the fans’ may have grown increasingly tired of Wilson’s troubles, which has led to similar treatment Brandon League received last season, Wilson has a more optimistic view on how his season has gone to this point:
I’ve got one blown save, one loss in a tie ballgame and the rest are just who-cares type of innings. So why should it (the statistics) matter?” he said. “I’m giving up runs, and we’re still winning or I’m giving up runs, and we’re still losing (those games). It’s not like I’m out there blowing leads and stuff.
The right-hander pitched in the sixth inning of the Dodgers’ blowout loss to the Miami Marlins Wednesday. His velocity was noticeably down, which led to manager Don Mattingly expressing concern over his reliever.
In a similar situation Friday, however this time with the Dodgers comfortably ahead, Wilson was called on to pitch the final inning of the game. After issuing a leadoff walk, Wilson then began to rear back, routinely hitting 94 MPH on the radar gun to get two of the three outs by way of strikeout.
Though it came against the struggling Arizona Diamondbacks, Wilson provided a glimmer of hope that he’s capable of being the effective reliever the Dodgers believed they re-signed.
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