While the Dodgers were preparing to open a two-game series against the Detroit Tigers, Brian Wilson was at a minor league game.
Wilson is fine with that. The Dodgers' bearded $10-million setup man is looking ahead.
“I was signed for multiple reasons. For clubhouse, leadership, certain advice to certain pitchers, but most of all I was signed so I could play in October,” he said. “That's what this team was built for. That's the whole reason they signed me last year. It's the exact reason why they signed me this year.
“I need to make sure I'm up to speed for what they signed me for. Of course you want to play the whole year. But all that stuff gets wiped out once you win the division.”
There was a time when an early-season trip to the disabled list would have bothered Wilson. But he is 32, in his ninth major league season, the survivor of two elbow operations. His arm isn't what it used to be. He has to prioritize.
The discomfort he felt when pitching against the San Diego Padres last week isn't what landed him on the DL, he said. He felt similar sensations last season when he came back from his most recent elbow operation to pitch for the Dodgers for two months.
The issue was that Wilson thought he didn't build up sufficient arm strength in spring training, which was condensed this year to facilitate the Dodgers' season-opening trip to Australia.
Wilson views his current minor league rehabilitation assignment as an extension of camp.
When he pitched Saturday in his first game with Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, he threw a scoreless inning, all of his pitches fastballs.
During exhibition games, Wilson said he didn't have many outings when he threw only fastballs.
“I think it was more or less the mind-set of, ‘I need to work on my all my pitches. I need to make sure they're all ready.'
“… I didn't really work on the arm strength because I was too busy concerned with outs. Right now, I'm not concerned with results. Focusing more on making sure everything is in sync.”
Wilson threw a scoreless inning for Rancho Cucamonga on Monday and is scheduled to pitch for the Class-A team Wednesday.
Wilson was diplomatic when asked about the Dodgers' trip to Australia.
“I can't speculate what Australia did,” he said. “I understand that it's good for the game of baseball, regardless of how many people didn't want to go. That's not the point. The point is that the team voted to go. Everyone prepared themselves the way they needed to prepare for a shorter spring training.”
But, he added, “Something you need to consider is that when you go into October and then you cut down spring training, you don't have that long of an off-season. Then you have a shorter spring training. That's not something that anybody's dealt with.”
What happened can't be undone, so Wilson looks forward — to October, specifically.
Wilson won a World Series with the San Francisco Giants in 2010. In fact, he recorded the final out.
“It's important to go to the World Series because it's not just a selfish goal. It's a team goal. You get to watch everyone from the vendors to the front office to the coaching staff, the guys that have never won it. It's something you need to at least go to and experience because it's a different baseball. It's not the same baseball. It's so amplified. Every strike thrown, everyone is watching. You can just feel the tempo of it.
“The fans deserve a World Series here, especially after a couple of down years. Crowd's just as intense now as I remember it when I was a rookie. It's nice to see the city come alive and everyone's really excited for this team. We'd like to tell the city we're capable of doing it.”
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