CJ on the Rangers, Darvish & flipping the page …
C.J. Wilson has a pretty marquee matchup coming up Friday, when he returns to the ballpark he called home for the last seven years, faces the teammates he went to two straight World Series with and goes toe-to-toe the man his old club essentially chose to spend money on instead of him.
Below are some highlights of what Wilson (pictured left) told reporters about the matchup from Minneapolis. He mostly downplayed the emotions of returning to Texas and facing Yu Darvish. But he did say he expects to get booed, confirmed that the only formal offer he ever got from the Rangers was a three-year deal just a few days before Opening Day 2011, stated that he doesn’t blame the Rangers’ front office for moving in a different direction and recalled a time when he told GM Jon Daniels on a bus that he needed to make sure young guys like Derek Holland and Elvis Andrus were taken care of.
Here goes …
On the upcoming matchup with his old ‘mates: “Obviously, when you change teams within the division, at some point you’re going to play your old team, and they’ve won the division the past two years because they’re great hitters. So that’s the objective for me, to prevent the other team from scoring runs. I have a tall task.”
On what could be an emotional Friday: “I think the biggest thing will just be that we’ll be playing in front of a huge crowd in a stadium that’s relatively hostile to our team – and I’m sure will be fairly hostile to me. I think a lot of people will boo me and stuff. It’s happened before in other stadiums, as well. Hey, some of them booed while I was there when I was a reliever, you know. The main objective is just focusing on the baseball aspect of it and preparing to get their guys out.”
On following the Rangers’ hot start: “Well, it’s on T.V. every day. ‘Oh, they can hit? I didn’t know that. They’re good hitters? Oh yeah.’ They were always good hitters. I knew that. I played with them for so many years. I know them really well.”
On facing Darvish: “I think it’s interesting, obviously, that we both kind of slotted into the rotation the way we did, that that’s the way it lines up. But it’s not the National League, so I don’t have to face him. I would be very prepared for his repertoire of fastballs and curveballs and splitters. He throws a lot of those to left-handed hitters, so I would be focusing on that if it were the National League, but it’s not. My job is to focus on facing Nelson and Michael Young and Josh Hamilton. Who I pitch against means nothing.”
On switching teams: “I’ve had a lot of time to practice different scenarios in baseball. High school – I transferred high schools. Junior college – I transferred to college. Minor leagues. Major leagues. Teammates are now opponents. Opponents are now teammates. There’s a lot of different stuff that goes along with it. But we’re just uniforms pitching against uniforms for a lot of fans. For me, it’s a much more academic pursuit than an emotional pursuit if that makes any sense. I study it, try to find a weakness, try to pitch to that weakness and then try to win the game.”
On his conversation with Daniels the night of Dec. 8: “Jon Daniels called me the night before I signed and was like, ‘Is there anything I can do to tell you not to sign with the Angels?’ I kind of laughed. I was like, ‘Well, you could make me a contract offer.’ It’s pretty simple.”
On whether he feels the Rangers wasted his time this offseason: “All I’ll say is that I had a really good relationship with a lot of guys, front office, coaches. Obviously, in any organization there’s going to be some people that maybe you don’t interact with as much. … But what it comes down to at the end of the day is you have to do what’s right for you. They moved the way they did because that’s the way Jon Daniels, Nolan Ryan and the ownership group wanted to go. There’s nothing wrong with that. You can never begrudge over changing directions. There’s nothing wrong with that. They have a young core of players that they want to lock up – Elvis Andrus, Neftali [Feliz], Derek, those guys. And I sat down on a bus before a game with Jon Daniels and told him, ‘Whatever happens, you have to sign Derek, you have to sign Elvis, you have to make those guys feel comfortable and make them feel like part of the future.’ And I told him that because it has nothing to do with me, it has to do with those guys, and I like those guys. At the end of the day, I’m not going to begrudge anybody for what they did or didn’t do. That quote [“the Rangers wasted my time”] was taken a little bit out of context in that I could’ve signed with the Angels right away, with how hard they were pursuing me. That’s kind of what it was all about, because I was like, ‘Whoa, they want me more than anybody else, so I’ll just go with them right now.’ That could’ve happened in November, but it didn’t because my agent and I were talking about it. There was some sort of conversation in regards to, ‘Well the Rangers want to meet with us and do this and that,’ and it just never materialized in that sense. It’s not a waste of my time baseball-wise.”
On his time in Texas: “I had a lot of fun. That was a great team. We had more fun playing baseball the last two years with that team than any team I’ve ever played on, even junior college. … The guys are great, the guys are fun, and that’s why people love watching them. Adrian Beltre’s head-touch thing, the deer and the antlers, and I was a big part of that. I enjoyed that. So it was fun living that, and I’m trying to bring that over here, that fun, extroverted thing. So I learned a lot. But there was never a case of me wanting to leave or anything like that. So I just want that to be clear.”
On staying in touch with his old teammates: “Some guys, yeah, but that’s a two-way street. I have five years with these guys, trying to get to know [Mark] Trumbo and [Peter] Bourjos. Colby Lewis I’ve known since 1999, we exchange text messages, but for the most part, we’re trying to beat those guys, therefore, our wins come at their expense and their wins come at our expense. That’s why you play, to win. So that’s a very weird grey area for a lot of guys.”
On how his old team’s hot start, and his new team’s slow one: “The guys are loose and they play good baseball. There are a lot of teams that have got off to hot starts. We’ve gotten off to a pretty poor start because we were out of sync. Some games are pitching wasn’t good, some games our hitting wasn’t good, some games we did both of those and played bad defense. If you fire on all cylinders, it doesn’t really matter what your roster consists of, you’re going to win the game. If we play the way we have been, we have a lot better chance of winning than we did in the first 10 games of the season.”
And, finally, on his impressions of Darvish: “He’s on TV every time he pitches. He’s tall. Has a really tight uniform. He’s a right-handed guy with 95-mph fastball, couple different breaking balls, like A.J. Burnett a couple years ago stuff-wise, he’s 6-foot-5, tall, lanky, long arm, hip turn, from a scout standpoint, that’s what you see, though he’s got two extra pitches. But like I said, I don’t bat off him. If I did, I know exactly what I’d be looking for, but I don’t talk about that. It’s none of your business.”
Some Angels.com links …
- Angels focused on themselves, not Rangers
- Wilson bracing for boos, Yu, in Arlington
- Born to run, Mike Trout makes rapid rise to Majors
- Offense comes to life, and Ervin Santana celebrates
- Notebook: Mike Scioscia tossed, Dan Haren on his back, Angels shutout seven times, Peter Bourjos biding time, etc.