History lesson helped Rangers starter C.J. Wilson

The one-year transformation from a 73-inning reliever to a 204-inning starting pitcher seems astonishing.

But the commitment Rangers left-hander C.J. Wilson made last winter was slightly more impressive than his vast knowledge of those who made a similar transformation.

Wilson, who will start Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Friday night, is aware White Sox rookie Chris Sale earned a few saves during his two-month stint in the majors.

He also recognizes that several pitchers, namely Cubs Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins, made a similar move from the bullpen more than 40 years ago.

It's just one reason Wilson takes his sudden success in stride — even after winning 15 games for the Rangers this season and limiting the Rays to two hits over 61/3 innings in Game 2 of the AL Division Series.

"It's just about conditioning," said the 6-foot-1, 210-pound Wilson, who scaled back on lifting last winter and concentrated more on flexibility and stamina. "If you have stuff that is good enough, then you have no issues.

"Inning-by-inning, it's always the same thing. But the thing you must do if you're transitioning like I did was to talk to guys like (Rangers President and Hall of Fame pitcher) Nolan Ryan who were in the best shape and ask what they did."

As far as Wilson is concerned, his training methods won't translate to a best-selling video.

"It's not like reinventing the wheel because guys like Jenkins did it, too," said Wilson, referring to relievers who made a successful transition. "A lot of guys used to break in in the bullpen."

The Sox used the 6-5, 170-pound Sale as a reliever because that's where he was needed most, but Wilson believes Sale can succeed as a starter with the right mentality and proper training.

"If he's a true-caliber closer guy, then I don't think there's any issue," Wilson said. "I'm not saying anyone can do it because you must have a certain mentality to be adaptive, but you must understand you might not be able to throw as hard (on every pitch).

"You might have to back it down. But your running has to go in a different direction. Your body must be built for it. Being built for 200 innings is lot different than being built to throw hard. And that's something guys have a hard time with."

mgonzales@tribune.com

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