PEORIA, Ariz. – He’s questioned if his body is rejecting him, changed nearly everything about his conditioning in an effort to stay healthier and even expressed a bit of guilt at getting paid for playing so few games the last few seasons.
And now Jack Wilson might not even have a starting spot with the Seattle Mariners.
Not surprisingly, Wilson understands the actions new Seattle manager Eric Wedge is taking by opening the position for competition – likely to be decided between newcomer Brendan Ryan and Wilson.
“The bottom line is I haven’t been able to do my part of the deal. I haven’t been able to be out there doing what they wanted and expected me to do when I signed the deal,” Wilson said. “By no means was I coming in here saying ‘it’s my job.’ You’ve got to earn it like everyone else, especially with last year and missing more than half the games. I’m the last person who would say I deserve anything.”
What Wilson will receive in the final year of his contract is $5 million and no guarantee of what his role will be when the Mariners break camp at the end of March.
He could claim his spot as the Mariners starting shortstop, filling a role the Mariners expected him to lock down when he was brought over in a trade from Pittsburgh just before the trade deadline in 2009. Wilson could find himself out of a job, stuck on the bench as a backup in a spot role. Or, Wilson might find himself at a different position.
As part of the open competition at shortstop, Wedge asked Wilson to put in work at second base to see how versatile Wilson could be in the Mariners infield.
“We want to be versatile,” Wedge said. “I think if Jack is healthy and out there doing what he’s capable of doing we’ll be in good shape with him. I think if Brendan Ryan shows us what we believe he is, he’ll be a good option for us too. I’m not ready to make that call yet.”
A one-time All-Star in Pittsburgh, Wilson’s found no luck with injuries since his trade to Seattle.
He played just 31 games that first year with the Mariners, missing the final part of that season with a bruised heel. Last year, it was continuing issues with his hamstrings that limited Wilson early in the year, going to the disabled list in May and then aggravating the injury while on a rehab assignment.
Barely a month after returning from his latest hamstring issue, Wilson broke a bone in his right hand that required surgery and ended his season. The 61 games he played in 2010 were his fewest since his rookie season of 2001.
Over the past three seasons, Wilson has missed 232 games and played in just 254. It hasn’t helped that Wilson is hitting just .240 since coming to Seattle and while not ever a significant power hitter, he has just one home run and 22 RBIs in 92 games with the Mariners.
Wedge isn’t skeptical of Wilson, but needs to see Wilson perform and not be stuck in the training room during camp to prove he should be the starter come April 1 in Oakland. Wilson doesn’t disagree and says he feels like he needs to make up for his lost time.
“I feel bad and feel like you let your team down and let the organization down because they did get you and keep you and that means a lot to me as a player,” Wilson said. “But at the same time I know I’ve got spring training and this season to do as much as I can to make up for that.”
To that end, Wilson tried to be more diligent in the offseason, even dropping some weight as another way of trying to keep his troublesome hamstrings from barking again. At this point, he is willing to almost try anything to stay on the field.
He needs it with Ryan now in camp. When Seattle traded for Ryan in December, the belief was that if young star Dustin Ackley wasn’t ready to take the second base job out of camp, then Ryan would begin at second and Wilson at shortstop with Chone Figgins moving back to third base.
Wedge discounted that thought when he said Ryan will get the bulk of his work at short. It’ll be one of the few open competitions this spring.
“I told (Wilson) I don’t know how it’s going to play out yet but I want to take a good look at the Ryan kid,” Wedge said. “I want what’s best for our ballclub.”
Seattle agreed to 2011 contracts with pitchers Doug Fister, Jose Flores, Cesar Jimenez, Josh Lueke, Yorvis Medina, Edward Paredes, Michael Pineda, Mauricio Robles, Chaz Roe, Tom Wilhelmsen; infielders Alex Liddi, Matt Mangini, Justin Smoak, Matt Tuiasosopo; and outfielders Johermyn Chavez, Carlos Peguero.