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August 3, 2011 at 9:30 AM

Wilson battles in return from elbow infection

In his first start since July 18, Portland righthander Alex Wilson went 4.0 innings Tuesday night, allowing 3 earned runs on 5 hits with a pair of strikeouts and a walk in the Sea Dogs’ 7-6 extra-inning loss to the Bowie Baysox (BAL).

Wilson missed two scheduled starts following an elbow infection that landed him in the hospital for 3 days last month, and said that the layoff broke up the rhythm he’d established so far this season.

“I hate getting rest, actually,” Wilson said after the game. “Once you get in a rhythm, you never want to break it. The hospital trip and having two weeks off… it’s a long layoff. I just threw one side and got back on the bump. But I felt fine physically.”

For the first two innings, Wilson was anything but affected by the long wait between starts. He struck out the first batter he faced on a 94 mile per hour fastball and cruised through the first two innings, allowing just one single on a Bowie chopper to third in the first inning. He primarily threw his four-seam fastball, which sat in the low 90s and topped out at 96 in the first.

But shortstop Pedro Florimon singled to lead off the third, and outfielder Ronnie Welty walked to get Wilson into his first jam of the night. He coaxed a pair of fly balls out of the next two batters he faced, but a 3-2 pitch to third baseman L.J. Hoes caught too much of the plate and was deposited over the left-field wall for a three-run home run.

Wilson ran into similar trouble in the fourth, surrendering back-to-back one-out singles to first baseman Brandon Waring and catcher Caleb Joseph. But Florimon popped out and Wilson fanned Welty on four pitches to retire the side, leaving the game with a 6-3 lead.

Wilson’s struggles coincided with a loss of command. He went to a three-ball count with three of the six batters faced in the third, with 17 of the 32 balls he threw on the evening coming in that frame.

“It was just a matter of me not being able to find my secondary stuff,” Wilson said. “Generally, it’s an easy thing for me to throw a slider for a strike, and I just couldn’t find it tonight. It was just one of those nights. The last inning, I threw a couple good ones to strike out the last guy, but it was just a battle for me all night simply because I couldn’t locate my off-speed stuff.”

Catcher Mark Wagner, who hit a pair of home runs on the evening, said that Wilson competed despite not having his best stuff.

“His breaking stuff, some of it had a lot of good movement, but I think he can normally locate it a lot better,” Wagner said.

At his best, Wilson can locate much more than his fastball, which is contributing to his impressive 2011 season. Boston’s 2nd round pick out of Texas A&M in 2009, Wilson has been much better in his second go-around in the Eastern League. After stumbling to a 4-5 record with a 6.66 ERA in 16 starts for Portland last season, Wilson is 8-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 18 starts.

Though he’s spent over a year at the level and is one of the team’s best starters, manager Kevin Boles said before the game that Wilson isn’t through with his development in Double-A. Boles noted that while he’s made improvements in his consistency, pitching deeper into ballgames, and maintaining his velocity from the stretch, there’s always room to improve.

“I think it’s getting innings experience for him,” Boles said. “But people are paying attention to this kid, and he’s really lit up our eyes in this organization. The improvements he’s made from last year to this year have been pretty impressive.”

While he admits to not thinking too much about promotions, Wilson believes he has put himself into a good position.

“I’ve pitched myself into a position where anything can happen,” Wilson said. “If I get the call, great. If not, I have to keep doing what I’m doing here.”