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February 21, 2011 at 4:42 PM

Mariners shortstop Jack Wilson says he can’t blame fans for joking about his injury-prone ways

Don’t forget Geoff Baker Live! coming up tonight at 6:30 p.m. PT.
You can see some video of Dan Cortes throwing live BP today. Afterwards, closer David Aardsma, now up to putting about 80 percent weight on his foot after hip surgery, takes Cortes aside for a conversation.
I asked Cortes about it afterwards and he told me Aardsma had spotted some things about his arm angles when he was throwing a two-seam and four-seam fastball and made some suggestions.
Had a good chat with Jack Wilson after this morning’s workouts. An enlightening one, given that I asked him right off the bat whether he was aware that his injuries had become so frequent, fans were actually taking bets as to the over-under on how many months — or weeks — he’d last on the field this time.
Rather than be angered by it, Wilson admitted he had heard it.
“It’s pretty funny, isn’t it?” he said.
No, he wasn’t being sarcastic. Some players might be, given that there really isn’t anything funny when we’re discussing a player’s livelihood.
But Wilson admits that he’d be joking about his health as well if he was a fan.
“The thing is,” he said, “it’s true. I’ve been getting hurt ever since I came here.”
Now there’s a concept. A guy actually owning up to the truth about himself and not blaming anyone else for his misfortunes.
They call that a “leadership quality” on some teams.
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Not that Wilson could do much about the broken hand he suffered that knocked him out for most of last year’s second half. But his continuing hamstring issues? Well, that, Wilson decided, he actually could do something to better his chances with.
And so he did. Wilson went on a better eating regimen and got a personal trainer to work out his legs through weight-lifting as he’s never done before. He didn’t focus on bulking up his upper body this winter, just his legs.
As a result, his legs are stronger and his body lighter. Much lighter. Wilson weighed in at 177 pounds when he came to camp. Last season, he ranged between 195 and 200. That’s not just an annual spring training “weight loss” cliche. That’s a serious body transformation.
“It’s just something I came up with on my own,” he said. “I figured out that my hamstrings weren’t handling me at the size that I was. So, I decided that if I got smaller and made my legs stronger, it might change some things.”
With less weight and stronger legs, Wilson figures the hamstrings won’t be an issue. Wilson says he feels like he’s a better defender now than in years past, saying experience and improved positioning have given him an ability to get to balls quicker than before. If he can stay healthy, he adds, there’s no reason this can’t be his best season ever.
Even if his manager is openly discussing giving more playing time at shortstop to Brendan Ryan — just in case Wilson isn’t ready.
Again, Wilson doesn’t get angry at the suggestion. He doesn’t try to blame somebody else for his struggles.
He merely accepts is for what it is with a determination to get better.
“How can I possibly argue with that?” Wilson asked. “Look, I know it’s true. I haven’t been able to stay on the field. It’s been a problem for the team. I know that it’s been a problem and I’ve taken steps to fix it. Believe me, I don’t want to keep going like this, either. But I can’t blame them for being worried.”

But the one thing Wilson doesn’t laugh at, or casually dismiss, are suggestions he was ready to retire last year. He insists that some quotes he gave mid-season while on the DL, wondering aloud whether his body could keep enduring the daily MLB grind, was just frustration about his situation and not a wish to leave the game.
“It has nothing to do with retirement,” he said. “It means, if you do all this work, like I have now, and something happens, you’ve got to start wondering – how long am I going to spend 2 1/2 months busting my butt in the off-season, coming out here and feeling great and then having this happen again?”
That’s something he doesn’t want to go through again, which explains his dramatic fitness overhaul. In fact, Wilson, still only 33, said he’d like to play another three to five years. So, we’ll see how he looks this spring.
Oh yeah, that home run in BP today off Garrett Olson? Wilson told me it’s not just his legs that feel lighter and quicker this spring. It’s everything — including his bat when he swings. So, we’ll see whether that leads to anything.
There were some bunt defense drills runs by the Mariners today prior to live batting batting practice. And there was new manager Eric Wedge right in the middle of it.
“Right now, it will be as we’re initiating everything,” Wedge said. “Obviously, with the way we go about it and what we want, it’s a little bit different than the way they’ve had it in the past.”
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Wedge said that most bunt coverage is roughly the same for all teams and that it’s just a matter of differing styles amongst staffs. So, he was out there, verbally going over stuff with pitchers and fielders before and after drills. He was very deliberate about it and waved his arms for emphasis. The kind of gestures that say: “I’m going to say this once and I really don’t want to have to keep repeating myself.”
The players seemed to listen.

Comments | Topics: Brendan Ryan


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