Craig Wilson says he can play left field

So some believe Craig Wilson can't play the outfield anymore. He says that's just not true. The Braves Show's Bill Shanks has more.

Craig Wilson is not sure how the talk got started, but he sure wishes someone had asked him about his shoulder, deemed too bad to play left field by some sportswriters.

"It's interesting because this spring has really been no different from springs in the past in which I've limited the time in the outfield and played some more first base," Wilson said Saturday as the Braves were finishing the preseason. "When the season's started, I've never had an issue with it. I've been bounced around between first and right in Pittsburgh."

"So it's never been an issue until this spring when some people decided to write about something without actually getting the information from the source."

When the Braves signed Wilson in January, they originally talked about him seeing time in left field, where Matt Diaz and Ryan Langerhans platooned last season. But the more Diaz and Langerhans excelled in March, and the more Wilson played first base, the more assumptions were made that Wilson would not see as much time in the outfield as originally planned.

But he wants to clear one thing up: there is nothing wrong with his shoulder and with the exception of it being "a little achy" early in the year, it's not a problem. In fact, early on in camp when the players were working on their fielding, Wilson was more in the outfield than at first base.

"I think I'll be fine (in left field)," Wilson admitted. "I haven't had any problems with it. This is nothing abnormal for me. I've never missed a game based on anything wrong with my shoulder. I guess my dead arm, as opposed to being in the middle of spring, starts at the beginning. I'm fine and good to go. I have no problems going out there."

Now Wilson will readily admit that his arm is not the best in the world, but it's not a problem. So reports that his shoulder will keep him from being in the mix for left field were just inaccurate.

"There's nothing serious with it," Wilson said. "It's nothing abnormal in the beginning of spring. It just gets a little achy on me early on. After that, I'm fine. I just have a little bit of an achy shoulder from time to time. But I've never had surgery on it or anything."

Wilson has split his time in his career pretty evenly between first base and the outfield. He's played in 262 games at first base and 325 games in the outfield in his career. But last season was the first year since his rookie season of 2001 where he's played more at first than the outfield.

With Diaz (.309) and Langerhans (.370) both having great springs, that might be the reason we see more of Wilson at first base early in the season. The Braves' young starter at first, Scott Thorman, struggled at times in Florida and Manager Bobby Cox may let Wilson split time with Thorman, even though the Braves vowed Thorman would get the majority of playing time after the trade of Adam LaRoche to Pittsburgh.

But either way, Wilson just wants to play. He's happy to finally be a Brave, after years of rumors that the team was interested in acquiring him. And he thinks his new team is ready for a very good 2007 season.

"I think we look pretty good," Wilson proclaimed. "Everything starts with pitching and ends with pitching. Those areas have been addressed, so if we can score enough runs for our starters and turn it over to the bullpen, I think we look pretty good."

"I think we're just ready to get going. We've been going at it for a month and a half, so I think we're just anxious to get out there. I feel okay physically and I feel okay up at the plate."

And in left field, even if some believe his shoulder is not good enough to play out there. He's played there in the past, and expect Bobby Cox to use him there this season, depending on the success of Diaz and Langerhans.



Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can be heard on 680 the Fan in Atlanta, 105.5 the Fan in Macon, and the Atlanta Braves Radio Network. Email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.



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