Game thoughts: Wilson strengthens his case

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Rangers wanted to see how C.J. Wilson could handle batters the second time through the lineup.

Turns out he was even better the second time through it than he was the first. Wilson, who has pitched well enough the that the club is leaning heavily toward putting him in the rotation, gave up three runs on two hits (including a two-out, two RBI double from Juan Uribe) in the first. He started the inning by barely hitting Aaron Roward on an 0-2 count. He also walked Mark DeRosa on a 3-2 pitch that Wilson thought DeRosa would swing at. Wilson threw 30 pitches in the inning.

But he settled down and relied on a changeup that was really working on Monday. He got Eugenio Velez with a strikeout on a curveball to start the second and he kept going from there. Wilson got 13 of the 15 final batters he faced and was much more efficient about it, throwing 15 pitches or fewer in every inning outside of the first. He finished with two strikeouts and one walk.

He also showed he could get a lineup out a second time, retiring all but one hitter that he saw for the second time.

"I threw a lot of fastballs to some of the guys, so they had whatever timing they were going to get," Wilson said. "After that, it was up to me to disrupt it by changing my tempo, by changing my location, by changing my movement -- sometimes sinking. sometimes cutting. These guys fouled off a ton of pitches today and that's what ran my count up. During the season I might just try to go for the slider and go for the strikeout right away, but I was really determined to work with the stuff that I need to build my base on, which is the fastball and changeup."

Wilson had good rhythm and worked quickly. He didn't have the best command he's had all season, but he had good movement and mixed up his pitches well. It sure appears that Wilson will start the season in the rotation. He was asked about the decision facing the Rangers after his start on Monday.

"The Rangers need five quality starting pitchers," Wilson said. "We need a good bullpen. There's kind of a teeter-totter there in terms of whereever I land, it might push that balance one way or the other depending on where it is right now. It's obviously why JD gets the big bucks to be the general manager and I get paid the big bucks to throw the ball and swing the bat every once in a while."

Wilson was clearly pleased with his double in the fifth inning off Barry Zito. Before the game, Wilson said he had an "amazing BP" and was "stoked" to hit.

"It was cool to be on the bases," Wilson said. "My last real at-bat was 2001 in college. Zito is a legit pitcher, so it was kind of neat."

Wilson has made it clear that he wants to earn the starting job on merit. He was very unhappy to see Tommy Hunter go down with an injury.

"Tommy was extremely, 100 percent solid for us last year with a lot of innings, really durable, and did everything we needed," Wilson said. "We need him to pitch for us this year. We also need depth. And this is why we need depth, because guys get hurt. I'm going to do the best I can to go out there and provide a lot of innings as a starter or a lot of zeroes as a reliever."

Wilson said he does think he's shown enough to be a starter.

"Especially considering I haven't done it in five years," Wilson said. "I feel like I'm going out there and getting better every time. But it's up to other people to judge that."

Other game observations:

* OF Vladimir Guerrero, who played right field with no DH against the Giants, is starting to get his bat going. He came in with a .250 average after a couple of hits the last few days and had an RBI single in the first (with two outs) and a double just inside the third-base bag to drive in Michael Young from first in the fifth. That's the Guerrero this club needs in the heart of the lineup.

* INF Joaquin Arias took a large lead and was caught on a pick off-caught stealing in the fourth. The Rangers have told Arias that they want him to try to do more on the bases and not be afraid to make mistakes. It was an aggressive approach and it cost Arias on Monday. But that's how he learns. If Arias makes this team, they need him confident on the bases because he'd be used as a pinch runner late in games. Arias had a good day at the plate with a single in the fourth and a double in the sixth.

* LHP C.J. Wilson showed his athleticism a few times on Monday. He made a nice play on a chopper back to the mound in the first, blocking it like a hockey goalie when the hop appeared to fool him and then throwing to first from his knees. He also ran hard to first to cover the bag when Chris Davis bobbled a grounder momentarily in the fifth. It was a close play, but the Rangers got the out because Wilson was alert.

* 3B Michael Young sure does make two-strike hitting a must-see event. He belted a single to right field on a 1-2 pitch from Barry Zito in the third. He also had an RBI-single to drive in Wilson in the fifth. Young is batting .441 this spring as he goes about his business of preparing for the season.

* 1B Chris Davis' defense is easy to take for granted. He made a good play to get an out a tough grounder (where Wilson covered the bag), got to a pop up that the wind played tricks on and made a catch with a broken bat flying at him. He didn't have as good a day at the plate, going 0-for-4 with a strikeout, leaving four men on base.

* RHP Tanner Scheppers came in with a runner on and two outs in the eighth and allowed a double to score a run. He gave up the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. Velocity wasn't the issue. I saw one gun that had him at 97 mph a couple of times. But the Giants had him timed and got some long hits off him.