C.J. Wilson made his much-anticipated Angels debut on Monday against the Minnesota Twins. Most of the reviews that have come in have been pretty positive about Wilson’s win. Sure it was just one start against a Twins team that is looking more and more lost offensively, but the Angels did pay big money for him, so let’s over-analyze!
Wilson was named the fourth starter late in spring training, in a somewhat surprising move by manager Mike Scioscia. Many fans expected that Wilson would be part of the Opening Weekend home stand against the Royals, but Scioscia decided to push Wilson’s first start back a day to the team’s road opener in Minnesota. Scioscia’s official reasoning for it was the way the starts of spring training happened to fall and he insisted that once the season got started, nobody would make any distinction between pitchers one through four. Other theories pointed to Scioscia’s history of looking out for “his guys” and leaving Ervin Santana in the third spot was his way of showing support to a guy who’s been with the team quite a while. Another possibility is that the Royals weren’t a great matchup for the lefty Wilson, since Kansas City was one of the best hitting teams against left-handed pitching in 2011. Seeing what they did to the right-handed Santana and Dan Haren before him, you can imagine how ugly it would have been if they’d gotten a favorable matchup…
Whatever the reason, Wilson was slated for his first start on Monday, in what turned out to be a cool day in Minneapolis. The crisp temperatures did not do much to cool off Wilson, however, as he came out of the gate controlling the Twins lineup. he was helped out by the Angels offense getting off to a quick start, scoring two runs in the top of the first inning which gave the left-hander all the cushion he would need. Wilson cruised through a smooth seven innings, surrendering just three hits while walking four and striking out five and made only one mistake, a home run surrendered to Josh Willingham on Wilson’s work-in-progress changeup. The Willingham shot turned out to be the only run surrendered to the Twins and Wilson looked comfortable throughout. The lefty was predictably nonchalant about his performance:
"“We have a long way to go. We just have to concentrate on playing the best baseball we can. It doesn’t really have anything to do with who’s hitting the home run or who’s getting the win,” he said."
While one start is obviously not a large enough sample size to make any lasting judgments about the long-term success of Wilson with the Halos, the team and fans have to be pleased with the promising start. While Wilson has never been known for incredible pinpoint control, evidenced by the four walks, he was able to work his way out of trouble consistently and never looked like the game was getting away from him. Wilson showed great movement on all his pitches which kept the Twins hitters consistently off balance, never allowing them to zero in on what he was throwing.
So what does it mean for Wilson and the Angels moving forward? Well,in the short term, it renews some of the faith in the starting pitching that took a ding during the opening series against the Royals with the struggles of Haren and Santana. In the long term, it gives the Angels another excellent pitcher behind the Cy Young caliber effort of Jered Weaver at the top of the rotation. All in all, it’s looking like that 5-year $77 million contract was a solid investment. At least, so far.