Wilson's return strengthens Tigers' bullpen

Wilson's return strengthens Tigers' bullpen

HOUSTON -- With Alex Wilson's return, an overworked Tigers bullpen will finally get some relief.

Wilson rejoined the team prior to Saturday's game in Houston after being called up from the Minor Leagues, where he was rehabbing a shoulder issue; the right-hander will be full go despite not facing Major League hitters since last fall.

"Throw him in the fire," manager Brad Ausmus said, citing Wilson's MLB track record. "If we didn't think he could pitch here, he wouldn't be here."

Added Wilson: "I am here to be a part of the team, not handcuff it."

And that's good news for the Detroit relief staff. Thanks to Mike Pelfrey's six-inning effort on Friday and Wilson taking Buck Farmer's spot in the bullpen (Farmer was optioned to the Minors on Friday night), the Tigers are back to full availability in the late innings.

It's also emblematic of a deeper bullpen in general this season; Wilson is looking forward to not being needed for as many as the 59 appearances he made in 2015.

"We have a lot of great arms in the 'pen this year, so I'm hoping to just fit in ... rather than being a guy that the phone was always ringing for," Wilson said. "We got a lot of help."

Ausmus said Wilson will likely be a seventh-inning guy, and he will also be available for multiple innings if necessary. That's no problem for Wilson, who said there will be no mental or physical hurdle even with the injury and an abbreviated spring.

"Mentally, I'm great, because I got all the pictures, MRIs taken of my shoulder and it's clean." Wilson said. "That's a huge relief. Now I just have to go out and perform."

Wilson wasn't exactly sharp in his four appearances across Class A and Triple-A ball, allowing four runs and nine hits in five innings. Even though he struck out seven, he also surrendered a pair of home runs.

But neither Wilson nor Ausmus is concerned, at least not enough to keep Wilson off the 25-man roster now that he's healthy. Wilson said the big league game is functionally different for a reliever.

"The approach is different here," he said. "In A-ball you can't throw a fastball without getting a swing coming out of their shoes. I've faced most of these guys before, and if I make my pitches, I anticipate things going well.

"It's obviously a different atmosphere, different feel and meaning to each one of these games. I want to continue what I started last year and build off that."

Chris Abshire is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.