"He is motivated. This is a guy who is ready for any challenge, and the bigger the challenge the bigger the response."
|-- Pitching coach Mike Maddux, on C.J. Wilson|
"He's got tremendous work ethic, and in baseball, that's what it is all about: work ethic and application," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "He understands this heat and is in great shape and he is prepared. After that, all he has to do is the tough part, and that's execution."After all, what's a little heat compared to stepping into a cryogenic chamber and experiencing minus-290-degree temperatures swirling around the body and getting the blood pumping. Wilson heard that the Dallas Mavericks used whole-body cryotherapy, and if it's good enough for the NBA champions, why not find out if it works for you? The Rangers certainly supported him, and the results since then have been resounding. "It comes well recommended from the Mavericks," pitching coach Mike Maddux said. "There are a lot of things out there on the cutting edge. This might become a good thing. This might become the standard." The Rangers have long known that Wilson does things his own way and maintains multiple interests outside his day job that have nothing to do with baseball. Not many pitchers are into surfing, photographing wildlife in the Transvaal in Africa or driving fast cars around race tracks. Greg Maddux certainly didn't on his way to four Cy Young Awards and 355 wins. But he did love to play 18 holes of golf whenever he had the chance, and that had nothing to do with baseball. Or did it? Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki can play a mean saxophone almost as well as he can hit an off-balance jumper with LeBron James standing in front of him. "Outside interests are good," Mike Maddux said. "Everybody has to get away. It keeps everything fresh instead of being overwhelmed with the situation. You get a mental shower." Whatever it takes to get the job done, and Wilson is doing that. He was the Rangers' Opening Day pitcher, he is pitching like a No. 1 starter and now the next step is to carry that into the playoffs. Last year, the Rangers also looked to Lee to carry them through. He did that through the first two rounds, and Texas went to the World Series. Now Lee is in Philadelphia, and Wilson inherits those same expectations into the playoffs. "He is motivated," Maddux said. "This is a guy who is ready for any challenge, and the bigger the challenge the bigger the response." Playoff experience helps, and Wilson was 1-2 with a 3.70 ERA in four starts during the postseason last year. He beat the Rays in the AL Division Series with 6 1/3 scoreless innings, and a blown save cost him a win in Game 1 of the AL Championship Series against the Yankees. A blister forced a premature end to a terrific outing in Game 2 of the World Series against the Giants. Wilson learned a few things along the way. "Yeah, that our schedule plays second fiddle to the big teams on the East Coast," Wilson said. "You know why we're playing at noon or at three o'clock in all the shadows ... oh yeah, because other teams have to play at night." There was more than just that. "There was a lot of pressure, but it was fun," Wilson said. "You have to have a lot of confidence in your own team, and I do. I know we have a great team. I know what we're capable of. I know I just have to go out there and get the other guys out, whether I'm pitching Game 1 or whenever, and our offense will do the rest." The southpaw knows the Rangers are placing much on his shoulders. "It's cool," Wilson said. "The way I felt during the season last year, I knew guys were counting on me. You've got to count on yourself. The better you do, the more responsibility there is and the more responsibility you have to back that up." This is his time of the year to do just that.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.