One of Boston's starting pitching prospects might not be that very thing anymore, as the Red Sox are moving Alex Wilson to the bullpen in Pawtucket, according to Tim Britton. Given the struggles of Sox relievers, this isn't a surprise, especially since Wilson was considered a potential in-season call-up for a relief role after his time in the spring.
Wilson's future as a starting pitcher in the majors is somewhat up in the air. Besides 2011, he hasn't had much minor-league success, but he came out of nowhere to post a huge season last year, with a 3.11 ERA and 2.8 K/BB across Double- and Triple-A. His 21-inning stint at Pawtucket to close out the year featured 24 strikeouts against seven walks, and is likely part of the reason Wilson was (temporarily, at least) in the running for a rotation job in spring training.
The move makes sense for both the Red Sox and Wilson. As Wilson says, "I pretty much throw fastball-slider anyway." Those two pitches have worked well for him in the upper levels of the minors, but against major-league hitters in a starting role, two pitches isn't going to cut it. Out of the bullpen, though, a pitcher who has 10.4 strikeouts per nine in 34 innings at Triple-A as a starter could do some good things for a relief corps in need of just that. (Not that 34 innings constitutes a massive sample to work with, but it's impressive after a promotion from Double-A.)
As with any young hurler coming to the majors for the first time, production doesn't translate directly, so Wilson might not be as ready as the Sox need him to be when the moment does come. On the other hand, even Kyle Weiland -- who struggled horribly as a starter with Boston in 2011 -- had a lot of success in his first 25 pitches of each outing in his first year in the bigs.
Between Rich Hill, Alex Wilson, and more 2011-esque Alfredo Aceves usage, the bullpen is going to look very different, very soon.