Red Sox Eye Wilson As '12 Contributor
BOSTON—As the Red Sox explored free agent pitching options this offseason, the chance existed that one of the most important additions to the big league pitching staff could come from within the system.
While Alex Wilson almost certainly will open 2012 in the Triple-A Pawtucket rotation, the hard-throwing 6-foot, 215-pound righthander stood a good chance to reach Boston at some point during the season. Drafted in the second round in 2009, Wilson's mid-90s fastball (he regularly worked at 93-96 mph in 2011) and swing-and-miss slider seemed like bullpen-ready weapons.
Relief may well be the role in which Wilson makes his mark in the majors, but he made enough strides in 2011 that the Red Sox are continuing his development as a starter.
The 25-year-old showed some progress with his changeup in a year in which he went a combined 10-4, 3.11 with 123 strikeouts and 44 walks in 133 innings split between Double-A Portland and a year-ending, four-start stint in Pawtucket. But perhaps more significant was the fact that he learned to regulate his effort level.
"He's not pitching with a sort of caveman-type mentality," assistant general manager Mike Hazen said. "It's not throw it as hard as I can for 100 straight pitches."
As such, Wilson increased the likelihood that he could at some point be summoned to the majors for a spot start, if not more. Even so, there is a solid chance that he will at some point be asked to join the bullpen, where his fastball and slider offer the basis for a potential back-end reliever.
According to new farm director Ben Crockett, the organization has not yet foreclosed either starting or relieving as Wilson's future avenues. However, the Red Sox do have vacancies in their bullpen, and Wilson—who both started and relieved in college—could fill either role.
"You want to make any prospect a starter for the majority of his career for pitch development," Crockett said. "For guys who are going to have a chance to make an impact on the bullpen, there will come a time when they make a transition."
• For the second straight year, the Red Sox lost lefthander Cesar Cabral in the major league Rule 5 draft. One year after being taken by the Rays, Cabral was selected by the Royals and then sold to the Yankees.
• Outfielder Ryan Kalish, recovering from surgery on a bulging disc in his neck, was expected to be ready to hit in spring training, though he might be limited to DH duties at the start of the exhibition season.