(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Texas Rangers’ C.J. Wilson answers a question during a news conference before practice for Game 1 of the World Series.
By Ronald Blum
The Associated Press
ST. LOUIS — The coolest person at the World Series is C.J. Wilson.
The Texas Rangers pitcher chilled out as he prepared to face the St. Louis Cardinals in Wednesday night’s opener. He spent 2 minutes in a Dallas cryotherapy chamber, where liquid nitrogen lowered the temperature to a frosty 295 degrees below zero in an effort to speed body recovery.
“So 35 degrees should be no big deal, right?” Wilson said today after examining the frigid forecast for Game 1 at Busch Stadium, where he starts against the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter.
Wearing a dark ski cap, dress shirt and vest in the interview room, Wilson said he read about the Dallas Mavericks trying out cryotherapy last season, when they won the NBA championship, and had Rangers head athletic trainer Jamie Reed check out the relatively new treatment with Casey Smith, his Mavs’ counterpart.
“I’m kind of an experimental guy. I’ll go for the hyperbaric chamber, drink a new type of sports drink that’s supposed to keep your blood sugar regulated. I’ll do whatever,” said Wilson, one of baseball’s best talkers.
Eric Rauscher, managing director of the Millennium Ice facility that Wilson uses, said the treatment has been available in the U.S. for about three years. It’s an improvement over an ice bath, which lowers the skin-surface temperature to about 48 degrees.
“The body goes into fight-or-flight syndrome, and surrounds the major body organs with enriched blood,” Rauscher said.
Preparing for the treatment, Wilson stripped down to his shorts, and put on special gloves and socks to keep his fingers and toes from getting frostbite. The rest of the body can tolerate the extreme temperature for that brief period.
“Basically you stand in this freezing can and cold air circulates around you. I did it a couple days ago,” Wilson said.
Wilson said he’d like to get to 300 below zero. Rauscher said there’s not much additional benefit, if any, at that point.
“Being competitive athletes, they want to outdo each other. I think it’s more of an ego thing,” he said.
For someone coming in off the street, a single treatment would cost $85, according to Mark Murdoch, Millennium’s contact person with the Rangers. For packages of multiple treatments, the rate drops to about $75.
“It gets really cold, really quick. And your body’s response is it pulls all the blood from your extremities in around your vital organs, kind of going into safety-survival mode,” Reed said. “You walk out about 2 minutes later, and that blood in theory has been enriched and oxygenated.”
Wilson has gone for the treatment twice between starts when the Rangers are at home. Fellow Rangers starter Matt Harrison also has become a devotee. He tried it out after feeling tired legs during a trip to Chicago.
“I’ve never been that cold before in my life,” Harrison said. “Those last 30 seconds in there are pretty miserable. You’re in there jumping around, just waiting for that guy telling you you’re done.”
Wilson, the Texas ace following the departure of Cliff Lee, lost Game 2 to San Francisco last year despite pitching well. He gave up a solo homer to Edgar Renteria in the fifth and a leadoff walk in the seventh that scored off the Rangers’ bullpen.
After going 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA during the regular season, the free agent-to-be is just 0-2 with an 8.04 ERA in three postseason starts.
“He just elevated the ball too much,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “He knows what he has to do, and I expect him to do it tomorrow.”
Carpenter was 11-9 during the regular season but was 10-2 with a 2.73 ERA from late June on, and the Cardinals rewarded him in September with a $21 million, two-year contract. He was brilliant in Game 5 of the division series, pitching a three-hitter that beat Philadelphia’s Roy Halladay 1-0, then struggled in the third game of the NL championship series against Milwaukee but still won 4-3 with a five-inning outing.
“Coming out of that start in Milwaukee, I had 200-something innings, 4,000 pitches or whatever. and it’s the middle of October,” Carpenter said. “Everybody has got soreness, and everybody has got aches. I got some treatment on my elbow. My elbow is fine.”
After winning the 2005 NL Cy Young Award, he missed most of the 2007 and 2008 seasons because of arm injuries, so there always is worry.
“Way back in August, every once in a while he would find his elbow was a little stiff, so he would monitor his bullpens,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “He’s been getting treatment and I know put his hand on the Bible the other day, a couple days ago, with the trainers and the doctor, and they all feel he’s good to go.”