Wilson Learns While On The Job

Of course there are some professional pitchers who can't pump their fast balls up into the 90 mph range. A few. But it's getting so that they're like the kid who could never climb the rope in gym class. Go to the back of the line. In the spring one scout was saying, "I've counted over 80 high school kids in my territory that throw in the 90's. I don't think I'll be able to get around to see them all."

Kyle Wilson has the requisite smoke on his fast ball. He reaches the mid-90's, in fact. But for a long time at UCLA he had both physical problems and a tendency to throw the ball in locations over than the strike zone. As a result, he wasn't used all that much until his junior year when he located the plate often enough that he was used regularly in relief and was spotted by the Dodgers.

Since he arrived on the scene late they were able to get him way down low in the 22nd round of the 2004 draft. The money being offered wasn't attractive at first so Kyle pitched summer ball. He did well enough that L.A. upped its offer and he signed just before classes resumed.

That fast ball made him an intriguing accusation; however, his secondary pitches were not in that class. He was sent to the Instructional League in the fall to sharpen those up as well as his command but the hurricanes happened and the camp never got going. So, it was in the spring before the instructors really began working with him.

He showed enough and his collegiate experience was such that it was felt that he could begin at high A Vero Beach. In the early going, he did enough that he was sharing the closer's role with Mark Alexander.

Soon, though, Kyle learned a painful lesson. If as a pitcher you become a pro by having the ability to throw hard, the batters you face are there because they've learned how to hit those. You need more than the high, hard one to get by so very quickly Kyle was being knocked around. First, he lost the closer's job, then he was demoted to Columbus.

And there at first he found the same thing happening. He had to sharpen up his curve certainly and, ideally, his change. To his credit, he learned and began having commendable outings. They were impressive enough that he got the call to return to Vero where he performed much more effectively.

For the year Wilson was 1-2 with a 2.16 ERA and three saves at Columbus. At Vero he was 0-2, 8.05 with four saves with most of those runs against him and the saves coming early.

His improvement was such that he was brought into the Instructional League for further tutoring . He did well enough that a scout who hadn't seen him since college exclaimed, "I knew he could throw a fast ball but now he's become a pitcher. He's really turned it around."

Certainly Kyle continues to rely on the stuff that brought him here but now he's a lot more able to change speeds and a lot more knowledgeable about when and where to throw a certain pitch. He hasn't crowded his way onto the list of sure-pop prospects yet but you can't dismiss him, either.

He's come a long way in a short time, he's a 6-2, 220-pound righthander who bears watching because now he's much more than a flame-thrower.