Dodgers 2014 Player Preview: Can Brian Wilson Withstand A Full Season?

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2013 stats: 18 games pitched, 13.2 innings, 2-1 record, 13 strikeouts, 0.66 ERA, 556 ERA+, 0.878 WHIP.

Coming off a second Tommy John surgery, Brian Wilson signed a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers in late July of 2013. It was a low-risk, high-reward move for the Dodgers that ultimately paid huge dividends. The right-hander began his climb back into MLB at the Minor League level before appearing in his first game as a Dodger on Aug. 22. Uncertain of what to expect, Wilson pitched one inning in his debut, striking out two and allowing one hit. The 19-pitch performance was a precursor of what was to be seen from Wilson for the rest of the 2013 season.

Showing very little, if any effects from the potentially career-altering surgery, Wilson allowed only one run in 2013, which resulted in his lone loss on the season. The former closer took the mound in six postseason games, throwing one inning in each appearance and racking up eight strikeouts. Wilson was then a free agent and was courted by several teams who enticed him with the opportunity to be their closer, which is the role he reportedly was interested regaining. The 32-year-old chose to stay with the Dodgers however and signed another one-year contract, which contains a player option for a second year. Wilson credited Los Angeles as a city and what it has to offer, as well as the opportunity of winning a World Series with the Dodgers as reasons why he chose to re-sign. While the former San Francisco Giant may not be the team’s undisputed closer, his latest contract ensures he will be paid like one.

Compared to the results from last season, hitters had far more success against Wilson in his 2014 Spring Training appearances. In 4.1 innings pitched, Wilson’s lowest spring total since 2006, he allowed two runs on three hits. Wilson was in unchartered territory when he started a game in place of the injured Zack Greinke and he also used the spring to experiment with a knuckleball, though he downplayed the pitch in an interview following the game. Dodger fans then received a bit of a scare when Wilson was removed from a game after throwing just three pitches, but manager Don Mattingly later revealed the reasoning was due to Wilson throwing too many warm-up pitches in the bullpen.

2014 outlook: Despite Wilson’s stellar performance in 2013, whether or not he can duplicate it over a full season is a question that still needs to be answered. Perhaps with that in mind, the Dodgers signed another former closer, Chris Perez formerly with the Cleveland Indians, during the off-season. From his perspective, Wilson recently told Ken Gurnick of Dodgers.com he was already pitching at 100 percent and is ready for the regular season to begin. Even with the Perez signing, Wilson will again serve as the primary setup man for Kenley Jansen. Having the three pitchers, all of whom have experience as a closer, could provide Mattingly with the opportunity of resting one of his right-handers when necessary, which could in turn have a positive influence on Wilson’s ability to remain healthy.


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