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Franz Lidz
March 07, 2011
C.J. Wilson's unique personality defies easy description. But the game's unlikeliest ace has a simple job: help the Rangers return to the World Series
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March 07, 2011

Pitcher, Perfectionist, Polymath

C.J. Wilson's unique personality defies easy description. But the game's unlikeliest ace has a simple job: help the Rangers return to the World Series

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What's on C.J. Wilson's mind? Alas, Sigmund Freud never lived to pose this question. If the father of psychoanalysis were around today, however, he could get up-to-date—if not up-to-the-minute—status reports by subscribing to Wilson's Twitter feed. This just in: "Is microphobia the fear of microbes or microphones? Or the fear of being miniaturized?"

str8edgeracer, as the Rangers' most persistent microblogger is known to the Twitterati, positively bristles with such brainstorms, many of which he tweets to his 47,000 or so followers. His recent suggestion for how a certain slugger who's headed for free agency will make out, for example: "Albert Pujols and his agent will end up w/ enough money to make Chuck Norris cry, thereby curing cancer. #chucknorristears"

Even the stodgy Dr. Freud might have cracked a smile at one of Wilson's ad-libs during last year's postseason. Asked what impact Texas's midseason acquisition of former Cy Young Award winner Cliff Lee had on his development, the 30-year-old lefthanded starting pitcher quipped, "Before he came here, I was a righthanded second baseman."

Whether at his BlackBerry, in the clubhouse or on the mound, Wilson delivers his best stuff the same way: with a headlong intensity. And last season, his sixth in the big leagues, that intensity helped deliver Texas to the first World Series in franchise history.

To the surprise of practically everyone but Wilson, the southpaw made the difficult transition from the bullpen to the starting rotation in 2010. "I begged for the job," says Wilson, who broke into the big leagues as a starter in 2005 but was moved to the pen during an erratic rookie campaign. "For years I'd been saying I was capable of being really good."

And he was. Wilson finished last season with a 15--8 record, a 3.35 ERA and 170 strikeouts in 204 innings. He was the second-toughest starter to hit in the American League (.217 batting average against), trailing only Cy Young Award winner Felix Hernandez (.212). Even more remarkably, the onetime lone wolf of the Rangers' locker room transformed into the de facto leader of the staff. Now, after losing Lee and adding little to the rotation over the winter, Texas needs Wilson to repeat that performance—only under the pressure that comes with being ace of the defending pennant winner. That's a lot for anyone to think about.

bullpen to starter, very simple: condition, preparation, routine. Lather, rinse, repeat. Most guys fall short on condition/prep

Tweeted by str8edgeracer

"Talent is irrelevant," says Wilson in a soft, intent voice, echoing something the essayist and fiction editor Gordon Lish once said. "I've got much less natural talent than lots of other pitchers.... I wasn't even the best player on my Little League team." What counts (more Lishspeak) is perseverance, application, industry, assiduity, will, will, will, desire, desire, desire.

The truth is that Wilson's career is a hymn to the work ethic. Former Texas pitching coach Mark Connor remembers phoning him a few winters back to see what he was up to. "Watching a baseball film," said Wilson.

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