For Justin Wilson, the offseason was a little bit longer than it was for his Cubs teammates.
Wilson went from trade deadline addition to being left off the NLCS roster. The reliever made one appearance in the NLDS, the last two outs in the Nationals’ ninth in Game 4 with the game practically decided with the Nationals up five runs in Wrigley, and was then replaced on the roster by Hector Rondon for the NLCS against the Dodgers.
“It kind of sucked at first. You go home and there’s still baseball on TV so that sucks," Wilson said in a one-on-one interview with NBC Sports Chicago’s Kelly Crull. "I was happy to come over to the Cubs. Clearly it didn’t go as I wanted it, but it’s a great organization and it’s a really good ball club so I’m excited for a little fresh start this year.”
Wilson had an ERA north of five in 23 appearances with the Cubs and walked 19 in 17 2/3 innings. Before joining the North Siders, Wilson had a 2.48 ERA with the Detroit Tigers and walked 16 in 40 1/3 innings.
Whatever it was, things weren’t working for Wilson with the Cubs.
“Since I came over it just never felt the same,” Wilson said. “The ball wasn’t coming out the same. I clearly wasn’t throwing enough strikes and then, you know, competitors start making changes to compete and get back out there. I made little tweaks here and there and just never found my way. I threw the ball better towards the end, but it still wasn’t the same.”
Wilson said he feels great now and has focused on getting back to what he does best this spring. He believes part of the reason for his renewed confidence is simply comfort.
“It was kind of a whirlwind last year, especially going into a team that’s very good and in the race, you want to do so well,” Wilson said. “I probably added some pressure to myself. Getting here, getting into camp and kind of slowing moving into things, moving into the season, it’s a little more comfortable.”
With a new pitching coach in Jim Hickey, Wilson has a new set of eyes to figure out how to get him back on track. One of the things Wilson noticed about Hickey is how much he preaches the change up.
“I came into camp learning one and continue to throw it,” Wilson said of his change up. “I think it will be a big pitch for me and a big pitch for a lot of us.”
The Cubs have revamped the bullpen this year, but Wilson thinks he can still play a key role. The 30-year-old lefty believes the key is moving past his forgettable few months last season.
“As a reliever you got to be able to flush it because you’re most likely in there the next day or the day after that so the quicker you can do away with it, flush it, learn from it, try to correct it, the faster you’ll get back on track,” he said. “You got to have I guess a little bit of a thick skin, but you also, like I said, have to be able to have a clear mind when you come to the field the next day.”