Wilson changed offseason prep in hopes of better 2015

Wilson changed offseason prep in hopes of better 2015

TEMPE, Ariz. -- C.J. Wilson's 2014 season began with a comebacker to his head in Spring Training and ended with a bases-clearing double in Game 3 of the American League Division Series, a start that saw the veteran left-hander get pulled after just six batters as well as the Angels' season evaporate after just three playoff games.

In between for Wilson, there was a 4.51 ERA, an AL-leading 85 walks, a three-week stint on the disabled list and, by all accounts, Wilson's worst season since moving out of the bullpen and into the rotation six years ago.

"I didn't have a good season," Wilson said Thursday, the day Angels pitchers and catchers reported for their physicals. "Some of my games were really good, and some of my games were really terrible. That's the hard thing."

Wilson started playing catch earlier than normal and threw nine offseason bullpen sessions -- he usually only throws a couple -- in hopes of fine-tuning his mechanics and attaining better location.

Asked if he could pinpoint specific reasons things spiraled last season, Wilson said, "Yeah, I would advise myself to never pitch when I'm sick and never pitch when I'm hurt, because then I'm not any good."

Wilson was on the DL with a torn ligament in his right ankle from July 10 to Aug. 2, but said he never fully recovered until after the season. He pitched with the flu in Houston on June 3, allowing five runs and 11 baserunners in 2 2/3 innings, and believes compensating for his illness affected his mechanics in ensuing outings.

"It was a waste," said Wilson, who had a 3.05 ERA before that start. "I should've done what a lot of people do and say I can't go that day, instead of just trying to be a hero."

Gonzalez on Wilson's 2015 goals

Instead, for most of the year, Wilson was a goat. There were occasional signs of brilliance -- most notably a shutout against the Rays on May 17 and seven scoreless innings against the Mariners on Sept. 17 -- but Wilson frequently struggled to pitch deep in games while walking a career-high 4.4 batters per nine innings.

All throughout, members of the Angels' coaching staff and front office persistently tried to get Wilson to develop a more aggressive mentality and pound the strike zone, rather than trying to be so fine and hurting himself with walks.

That, however, is how the 34-year-old feels he gets in trouble.

It's all about the movement of his pitches. Wilson believes focusing on pounding the strike zone forces him to take away some of his movement, while basically disregarding walks makes him tougher on opposing hitters.

"If you look at the numbers," Wilson said, "and you see what I did when I didn't care if I walked guys necessarily and I was just going to pitch tough no matter what the situation was, my ERA was lower than if I tried to throw strikes and encourage guys to hit the ball. And that's just because my natural strength is to rely on my movement and my sequencing and pitching against the hitter.

"When you try to pitch too much to the strike zone or the catcher, like the hitter doesn't exist, that's great if you throw 98 mph. But if you throw 91, then you're in a very hittable speed. And if you take movement away, you're doing the hitter a favor."

Wilson doesn't feel he can get away with throwing too many strikes, because he feels he simply isn't gifted enough.

He's barely 6 feet tall without cleats, his fastball hardly tops 90 mph, and he wasn't drafted until the fifth round 14 years ago. He isn't overpowering and he wasn't blessed with off-the-chart tools -- but he is motivated.

"I'm a regular-sized white dude playing baseball," Wilson said, "with a huge chip on my shoulder."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.