The Angels paper-thin starting rotation will be without C.J. Wilson for at least another month. Wilson, who underwent surgery in August to clean up bone spurs in his left elbow, suffered from a sore shoulder in spring training he believed was a result of the elbow problem.
As of this week, his shoulder strength didn’t meet the medical staff’s standard to begin a throwing program, but he will be tested again in two days.
Wilson, 35, is owed $20 million in the final year of his five-year, $77.5 million contract. He candidly discussed his uncertain future on Monday before the Angels season opener against the Cubs. Wilson hopes to return to the middle of the rotation, but said he was open to pitching out of the bullpen for the first time in six years.
“Yeah, totally. I think about that all the time,” Wilson said. “If I come back and I have some sort of electric stuff… but I can only throw 30 pitches, I think it’s going to be pretty clear that I can help the team out as a reliever. Next year is obviously a whole different ball game for that.”
Wilson was reportedly the subject of trade talks during the offseason, meaning he could end up on another team even before his contract expires at the end of the season.
Before his surgery in 2015, he was fairly effective despite pitching with elbow pain. In 21 starts, he went 8-8 with a 3.89 ERA and struck out 110 batters in 132 innings. Endurance, not velocity or control, was Wilson’s primary issue last season. He anticipates pitching with some discomfort this season, but doesn’t want to rush his rehabilitation.
“I probably threw 100 innings last year I shouldn’t have based on medical advice,” Wilson said. “I did well, so I was like ‘I guess I’ll just keep rolling with this,’ right before I realized I couldn’t even put a shirt on because my arm wouldn’t bend or straighten.”
The pain forced Wilson to alter his arm angle last season, something he was comfortable with based on experimentation with various arm slots throughout his career.
“I felt like I could uncork the ball and it was coming out pretty well,” he said. “Throwing in my normal slot, I was like ‘There’s no way I can put anything on the ball.’ I think it’s just a matter of time before I feel comfortable throwing different pitches from down there…I’ll still be able to throw all of my pitches.”