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05/20/08 7:39 PM ET
Rangers believe Wilson can fix control
Team retains faith in closer despite wildness issues
By T.R. Sullivan / MLB.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- C.J. Wilson was 12-for-14 in save opportunities as a closer last season, and is 8-for-10 this year. "If he continues to do that, I'll take it," Rangers pitching coach Mark Connor said on Tuesday, one day after Wilson suffered his second blown save of the season in a 7-6 loss to the Twins. "We knew going into this year that there would be ups and downs," Connor said. "It's a difficult job, and he's going to have to learn to deal with it." Wilson has had some issues lately, and has allowed seven runs over 4 2/3 innings in his last five outings, as well as posting an 8.49 ERA in his last 13 appearances. The job is still his, however, and manager Ron Washington said Wilson was available as the closer for Tuesday's game against the Twins. "The kid is going through some growing pains," Washington said. "But we believe he is strong enough to handle it. We believe he's mentally tough enough to handle it." The Rangers need Wilson to throw more strikes. He walked two in the ninth inning on Monday, and it cost him a save. It was his first blown save since April 20 in Boston, when he walked three batters. "It was a night when situations where I needed to make a pitch popped up, I didn't make as good of pitch as I needed to make," Wilson said. "Overall, I think I've pitched well in close games. [Monday] was the first time I didn't come through since Boston, so I'm not going to dwell on it." Wilson has walked 4.48 batters per nine innings, the 26th highest rate among relievers in the American League. The Rangers have six relievers in the top 40. Wilson's mark is also second-highest among the 16 American League relievers who have recorded at least three saves. Only the Mariners' J.J. Putz (6.68) has a higher walk rate. Wilson has walked 10 batters in 19 2/3 innings. Mariano Rivera hasn't walked anybody in 17 innings. Wilson has allowed less hits per nine innings than both Jonathan Papelbon and Joe Nathan, but Papelbon has walked just two in 20 2/3 innings, and Nathan has walked just four in 18. The Rangers need Wilson to cut down his walks, but still believe he can get the job done. "I stand by him," Connor said. "I think he's got the makeup and the stuff to do it, but it's a growing process. Not many [pitchers] come up with about a full season of experience and become a closer. It's not like he's getting beaten all over the place and he's kicked five or six saves."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.