Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson talks playoffs, Rays, Eastbound & Down
The Rangers' C.J. Wilson says starting is easier than relieving
The left-hander says the Rays' strongest weapon is their versatility
He wants Kenny Powers to throw out the first pitch during the playoffs
SI.com's Jimmy Traina spoke with Texas Rangers pitcher C.J. Wilson (15-8, 3.35 ERA), who will start Game 2 of the ALDS against the Tampa Bay Rays.
SI.com: So, how does it feel to be in the playoffs? Is it as fun as you thought it would be?
Wilson: Well, it was nice to have two semi-off days. We played something like 21 games in a row, so it felt great to have these last two days. I think being in Tampa, things are a little more low key. Even though there's a lot of media, there isn't that kind of hoopla like if we were in Boston or St. Louis.
SI.com: You had a strong second half, especially right after the All-Star break. What do you attribute that to?
Wilson: I think you just go on rolls at different points of the season where everything is working out well. I was in a pretty good groove with my mechanics. Physically, I didn't have any ailments. Everything that was sort of rough around the edges in the first half of the season started to sort itself out. I spent a lot of time thinking about baseball those couple of days over the All-Star break and then getting the extra rest, I felt pretty good about everything. I feel the more I pitch, the more things I get right. It's very much an experience thing. I don't feel like I've peaked yet, either.
SI.com: This was your first season in the majors as a starter. How does your arm feel? It doesn't seem like you hit a wall.
Wilson: It's been kind of surprising. A lot of pitchers in spring training go through a dead-arm phase and sometimes during the season, but maybe my workouts prevented it. Maybe it's just discretion before valor. As a starter, you're really able to monitor your throwing program in between days. You don't throw with as much intensity as often as you do if you're a reliever. So starting was easier on my arm than relieving.
SI.com: How do you feel about your chances against the Rays?
Wilson: If we score more runs than the Rays do, we can probably win most of the games (laughs). Seriously, the teams are matched up evenly in a lot of ways. We have power, they have speed. We both have good pitching. I've felt good about our team all year. In spring training, there was just a different vibe. Everyone expected us to win the West. Now we gotta keep that going. Obviously, we haven't been there, but that doesn't mean we just want to show up. We want to win, and we want to prove a point. And that point is that we're for real. We weren't just lucky.
SI.com: You guys are slight underdogs. Do you think about that at all? Does that motivate you?
Wilson: Nah. It doesn't matter. There is so much parity among the playoff teams. Tampa's record was 96-66. Ours was 90-72. Over the course of 162 games, they only won a few more games than we did, So I don't think there's that much of a difference.
SI.com: Who's the guy on Tampa that's the key for you guys to shut down? Is it keeping Carl Crawford off base? Preventing Evan Longoria from dominating?
Wilson: Offensively, Crawford and Longoria are their primary weapons but they have other guys who can bunt, steal bases, go from first to third. They have a lot of scrappy players who are well-rounded. So I think it's about momentum and preventing their team from getting the momentum, whether it's just for an inning or over the course of the game. If we played home run derby, we'd win. We have more power hitters. If it becomes a slugfest, I feel better about our team. But if it's a tight-scoring game every day, then it can go either way because they have the speed guys that can make a difference.
Wilson: I know your Twitter followers have gone up a lot during the season, and obviously you came into your own as a starter. Last time we spoke, you said you don't get recognized anywhere. That's had to change, no?
Wilson: To be honest, it's been the same. I only get recognized if I go to lunch in Dallas. Other than that, I can go outside right now in Tampa and no one will know me unless they're a Rangers fan. Plus, I'm 6-foot-1, 210 pounds, I don't have a mohawk or a sketchy mustache, so I don't think anyone's gonna recognize me. But it's good because it allows me to do what I want. I think even if we win the World Series and I win the MVP, I still don't think anyone would recognize me.
If I do become famous, though, I'm going to adopt a technique from Cliff Lee. A couple of weeks ago, we were in San Francisco, and some guy at a restaurant went up to Cliff and was like, "Yo, you're Cliff Lee." And he said, "Who's Cliff Lee? What are you talking about?" And the guy was like, "You're Cliff Lee, you pitch for the Rangers." And Lee goes, "Oh, that guy? He sucks." The dude was all confused because he was 97 percent sure Cliff was Cliff. And the dude just walked away shaking his head.
SI.com: Your love of Lost is well documented. Have you found a TV show to replace Lost?
Wilson: Lost was different than any other show. It was like a relationship. I was into that show for six years. So for me, it was something I'd always think about and theorize about. And once I met the producers, it was awesome because I was kind of in the universe a little bit. So I don't think I'm gonna make any other attempts to get that into a show again unless it just comes up. But I do like True Blood and Eastbound & Down. I've heard Mad Men is really good, so I'm gonna catch up on that this offseason. Modern Family is supposed to be good, and I've seen two episodes and they were really funny, so I'll watch that. But I like to start linear and start with Season 1, Episode 1. I like shows that's not so formulaic unlike CSI, where you can watch any episode and go, "OK, that dude killed that dude and that chick saw it and she doesn't want to talk about it and then David Caruso says some witty line and that's the show."
SI.com: You mentioned Eastbound & Down. You were campaigning on Twitter to get Kenny Powers to throw out the first pitch at one of the Rangers-Rays games.
Wilson: Well, I just thought it would be a hilarious thing if it could happen. To have Danny McBride come out with the mullet would be great. The show is genius -- and it's true. That's the best part. Bull Durham had a lot of truth in it. The Natural had a lot of truth in it from the business side, and Major League was probably the most fictional of all the baseball movies. But Bull Durham could straight up be a true story because that's really how it is. The Kenny Powers character is a little extreme, but he was created from an amalgamation of a few different people. I played with a lot of guys who have a little Kenny Powers in them.
SI.com: Jose Canseco recently said that he thinks Eastbound & Down is based on him.
Wilson: Of course he thinks that. He probably thinks if the price of gold fluctuates, it's because of him.
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