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July 3, 2012 at 12:08 PM

PawSox Notebook: Wilson records first professional save

Alex Wilson (Kelly O'Connor)
PAWTUCKET, R.I. – Alex Wilson came out of the bullpen in the eighth inning of Monday’s PawSox game with his team up by a run. After pitching a perfect inning, it appeared he had done his job in setting up the game for the closer to take over.

Instead, Wilson came back out for his second inning of work to finish out the 2-1 victory for Pawtucket. In those two innings of work he didn’t allow a hit and was perfect aside from a two-out walk in the ninth. He also recorded two strikeouts en route to picking up the first save of his professional career.

“It felt good,” said Wilson on notching his first career save. “I tried not to think of that while I was out there. I just focused each individual hitter, just go one at a time, and it worked out well for me.”

Overall Wilson seemed to be very happy with his move to the bullpen. Monday’s save was a culmination of the recent success he’s found as he settles into the role.

“I think it's gone really good,” Wilson said of the transition. “I'm comfortable down there, I switched my routines up. I feel like I've been doing it for awhile now. It's a place now where I feel like I can succeed and I'm very comfortable. Day in and day out, the body feels good, so I can't complain.”

Wilson admitted though that he still has plenty to learn about his new role, saying, “I think it's just getting ready every day, that's the biggest key. Being mentally prepared every day whether you're going to play or not, you have to lock it in. I think that's the biggest part and it's only been about six weeks I guess since I started doing that and I feel comfortable doing that and hopefully it will continue.”

Stewart continues strong start to Red Sox career
Right-hander Zach Stewart gave up just a run in 5.2 innings of work in his first outing after coming over from the Chicago White Sox in the deal involving Kevin Youkilis. In his second outing with the PawSox on Monday, he went a third of an inning longer, again just giving up one run to lower his ERA to 1.54 over the two starts.

“He has a three-pitch mix and he throws strikes,” said Pawtucket manager Arnie Beyeler on what makes Stewart effective. “He gets ahead of guys, and throws strikes and forces guys to put the ball in play with quality pitches.”

Though Stewart recorded just one strikeout in the outing, he didn’t walk a batter and gave up five hits. Only two of those were hit particularly hard and both came in the fifth inning. In the inning he almost worked around a leadoff double, as he followed the hit by inducing two groundball outs before ultimately yielding a run on another double. That was the only trouble he ran into on the night though, as he quickly stopped the bleeding by inducing a weak pop-up in foul territory.

Stewart worked mostly 90-91 mph with his fastball in the outing, touching 93 mph on the McCoy Stadium radar gun. He finished the outing with 89 pitches, 60 of which went for strikes. He didn't get a lot of swing-and-misses, but induced a ton of weak contact as batters had trouble squaring up his pitches.

“He did a great job,” said Beyeler. “It's kind of what we saw the other night. I thought he was a little bit sharper the other night, but still he was very efficient, he mixed his pitches again, was down in the zone, he got ahead of guys, and he's not afraid of contact. He goes right at guys, but he throws some quality pitches and definitely has a good feel for pitching. It's fun to watch him pitch.”

Bard headed in the right direction
Daniel Bard worked in his first back-to-back situation since being sent down to minors on Monday night. It may have seemed peculiar after having a rough outing the day before, walking two while giving up a hit and a run, but the team felt like something clicked for him in that outing despite the poor results.

“[Pitching coach] Rich [Sauveur] had mentioned last night that they kind of saw something,” said Beyeler. “He just turned it loose, it was like, 'hey, I quit caring, I'm just gonna throw it.' His arm action tonight looked a little bit more like that, like what we've seen in the past, where he kind of got away from the mechanical, robotic look and just reared back and threw the ball. It doesn't necessarily mean you're going to get results out of it, but it's definitely free and easy and just letting the ball go.”

The results did indeed follow in Monday’s outing as he pitched a perfect seventh inning, inducing three groundball outs to the right side of the infield. Even more encouraging was the fact that he needed just 10 pitches to complete the inning and eight of those went for strikes.

“After yesterday, things felt good at the end of that outing,” Bard said following Monday's appearance. “[The coaches] said that if I felt good enough physically then I would try to get out there again.”

His fastball sat mostly right at 94 mph in the inning, and hit 95 once on the stadium gun. Bard agreed that a mechanical adjustment was helping him to sort out his problems.

“It's not even so much the arm slot, it's just my whole body,” he said. “Leaning [a certain way] puts me in a better, more athletic position, which I did naturally for a long time without thinking about it. For whatever reasons, with starting and trying to perfect mechanics, I kind of got away from it. I’m just trying to get back to that delivery and 100-percent trust in it.”

For now, he’s just working to build upon the encouraging outing.

Matt Huegel is Senior Editor for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @MattHuegelSP.