Closing time? Wilson impressive for Texas in first spring outing
Wilson, who took over as the team’s primary closer after former NL Cy Young Award winner Eric Gagne was traded last summer, struck out two of his three batters in the fourth inning of Texas’ 3-2 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Friday.
“It’s never too early to start with your routine,” Wilson said. “The big focus for me is being aggressive with my fastball, and I did that. … My breaking ball is still in process.”
Wilson did get one of his strikeouts on a breaking ball, even if it wasn’t the pitch he really planned.
“One was a sort of weird breaking-ball thing that didn’t break, really,” Wilson said with a smile. “I hope every time I throw it like that, I get the same result.”
Brandon Wood hit a two-run homer in the eighth inning for the Angels off Warner Madrigal, one batter after Mark Trumbo’s RBI groundout for Los Angeles’ first run.
Darren O’Day, the fifth Angels pitcher, threw two scoreless innings. Alex Serrano struck out one of the three batters he faced in the ninth for a save.
Wilson is considered the top candidate for the closer’s job, even after the Rangers added two-time All-Star Eddie Guardado in the offseason. Guardado is likely to be a setup reliever and a mentor for Wilson, the 27-year-old left-hander who was 2-1 with 12 saves and a 3.03 ERA in 66 appearances last season.
If Wilson keeps pitching the way he did Friday, the job should be his.
“It was a pretty good start,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “It was nice that he went in there and got his inning of work in and controlled the damage and got out of there.”
Nick Adenhart, the Angels’ top pitching prospect who is expected to start the season in Triple-A, allowed three hits in two scoreless innings.
“He was a little pumped up, a little erratic,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “But he made some good pitches with his fastball, mixed in a couple of good breaking balls and didn’t get rattled when guys got on base. He’s got great composure out there.”
Gerald Laird, who will have to beat out Jarrod Saltalamacchia to be the Rangers’ regular catcher again, hit a two-run homer in the fifth. Laird had only nine home runs in 407 at-bats last year, when he hit .224 but had a stellar defensive season.
“I’m working on a lot of things in spring with my swing and with Rudy (Jaramillo, the hitting coach) and just trying to hit some balls hard,” Laird said. “And trying to actually keep the ball out of the air.”
Angels No. 1 starter John Lackey had a sore right elbow Friday after throwing a bullpen session Thursday. Lackey, a 19-game winner and the AL ERA leader last season, said he’s not concerned but is taking it easy. He likely won’t throw in a Cactus League game until late next week. … Rangers starters Kevin Millwood (right hamstring) and Brandon McCarthy (right elbow soreness), both scratched from their first spring starts, threw off the mound during morning workouts. Pitching coach Mark Connor said it was a positive step, and that both would likely throw again Sunday.