Wilson becoming an important piece for Tigers bullpen

Wilson becoming an important piece for Tigers bullpen

DETROIT -- You couldn't blame Tigers right fielder J.D. Martinez for misspeaking early Wednesday morning when answering a question about right-hander Alex Wilson, who had just tossed 3 1/3 shutout innings of relief in extras.

"I think he pitched 57 innings -- 57 pitches, I'm sorry," Martinez said.

In fact, Wilson had thrown 56, still 11 more than his previous high this year. He entered in the 11th frame, and Detroit manager Brad Ausmus left him in until he surrendered a one-out single in the 14th. That runner didn't score, and Wilson's ERA fell to 1.49.

It was, by all accounts, an atypical outing, even for a long reliever. But that has become the norm for Wilson, who has pitched in nearly every situation imaginable this year -- from starting, to eating up middle innings, to ameliorating high-pressure situations.

"When you can pitch a guy in many different roles, they're very valuable," Ausmus said.

That versatility has been a blessing for Wilson, who has already set new career-highs this season in games played and innings pitched.

"I love it," he said. "It gives me the chance to play every day."

In May, Wilson earned the club's Pitcher of the Month honors after positing a 0.86 ERA over 21 innings, and he continued his string of solid performances in June, allowing just two earned runs in 13 appearances.

This season has been a stark contrast to 2013 and 2014, when he spent more time with Red Sox Minor League affiliates than he did in the big leagues.

"My dad still always tells me -- I have it tattooed on my arm -- 'There's no shortcuts anyplace worth going,'" Wilson said. "I think that holds true today."

When the reliever was traded to the Tigers in the offseason as part of the deal that brought Yoenis Cespedes to Detroit, the club indicated how highly they valued him.

"[Assistant general manager Al Avila] made sure to say, 'Hey you weren't just a throw-in in this deal,'" Wilson recalled Wednesday.

And he hasn't been. Though Wilson struggled in Spring Training and started the year at Triple-A Toledo, he didn't allow a run over 5 1/3 innings with the Mud Hens and was promoted in late April.

The righty has been proving himself ever since.

"I have been the guy that's been up and down, and I had to prove myself every day," he said. "I don't look at it any different. I can easily be sent down again this year, and I'm trying to avoid that."

Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.