Wilson makes his pitch in Big Apple
Angels left-hander prepares to face Yankees, lines up promotional work and more
NEW YORK -- C.J. Wilson has won his past three starts against the Yankees, and in six of their seven most recent meetings he has held them to two or fewer earned runs. But going into his next start, in the series opener on Friday at Yankee Stadium, the Angels' left-hander has a new game plan.
One look at the 2014 version of the team in pinstripes is all it takes to see why. Between player turnover and injuries, Wilson will see very few holdovers in the Yankees order.
"It's a different team," Wilson said during his off-day Thursday. "You're bringing in a guy I've really never faced before in [Brian] McCann. [Carlos] Beltran I faced a couple times, and [Jacoby] Ellsbury obviously was in Boston last year. So all those guys coming into the lineup, it's a very big turnover.
"The Yankees are a team that is always good, they always play well at home, their fans are always into it, and for a Friday night game or a weeknight game, against a good team, they're always going to show up and be loud and get in your face. So when you're warming up, you're going to hear a lot of ... stuff from the fans. But it's pretty funny.
"I like playing in stadiums like Yankee Stadium with high energy. It's a historic town for baseball, and it's one of the best sports franchises in the history of Earth, so it's a big challenge every time you go out there and try to beat them. But at the same time, if you do beat them, it's a great feeling."
After shopping for a new pair of John Varvatos boots just around the corner, Wilson was at the MLB Fan Cave to promote his continued association with Head & Shoulders -- and specifically the second year of the "Season of the #Whiff" campaign on MLB.com and social media.
He talked about the benefits of a "hair deal," his next outing, the first month of the season so far for himself and his team, where to find good paella and sushi in New York, married life, what it's been like to watch Albert Pujols lately, and the learning curve he still sees players such as Matt Harvey finding in a Twitter world in which he was the first Major Leaguer.
"Season of the #Whiff is in version No. 2, so every strikeout in the Major Leagues this year, we're going with a contribution to the RBI program, which is great," Wilson said of MLB's Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program. "A lot of Major Leaguers played through RBI growing up. We're [encouraging fans] to tweet the team handle and also to tweet the hashtag #whiff [after a strikeout] to raise that money. Last year it was $140,000, and this year it will be about $260,000 that's going to be out there for grabs for the local RBI programs, so everybody has a chance to help their local team."
Wilson was married in December to Brazilian supermodel Lisalla Montenegro, and when asked how married life is treating him, he said with typical wry humor: "We have a dog now. That's the only difference." For the record, the Wilsons rescued a Great Pyrenees/Labrador mix named Osow, in case you aren't already following @Whiteosow on Instagram.
Wilson will be making his fifth start of the season, and he is scheduled to make his sixth on the last day of the month at home against Cleveland if he stays on his usual rotation. With 25 2/3 innings in the books so far, he is 2-2 with a 4.21 ERA. So far, he is well on his way to what he hopes will be a fifth consecutive season of at least 200 innings and 33 or 34 starts.
"Being consistent is one of the best things you can do as a starter for your team," Wilson said, "because the manager is going to count on you to throw six or seven innings on average, and on the nights you don't have your best stuff you've got to get through five or six, and on the nights you do have your best stuff, you're trying to go eight or nine.
"The best thing about being a starter is you have time to prepare, physically and mentally, so you can go over the guys you've got to face. Physically, you can be in your best shape, because your whole routine is based on the workout. You're working out so much that you can build your body up to be very strong. So you can last and recover in between starts, for those 200-plus. Hopefully 225 -- that's my goal this year. That would be my all-time high."
The Angels, coming into New York with a 10-11 record, will try again to reach .500 when Wilson takes the mound.
"It definitely has a better feeling to it than the last couple of years," Wilson said. "We got off to such awful starts the last couple of years, it was a really difficult hole for us, psychologically and statistically, to crawl out of. ... When we get Josh Hamilton back from his injury, and Kole Calhoun back from his injury, we feel like we should be off to the races."
Wilson said it is doubly satisfying to see what Pujols, who hit his 500th career home run this week, is doing, considering that they both signed with the Angels as top free agents before last season.
"It's been great. He's been carrying himself a lot more proudly since Spring Training started because he's just in better shape," Wilson said. "He's always so stoic up there at the plate, but he has that little smirk like he knows he's about to get a hit. It's so cool.
"Knowing that he's still got so much more good baseball in him, and seeing him swing the way he has lately, it's so inspirational. I feel like since he and I came here in the same year, we're kind of linked that way, and I just want to do everything I can to play hard and play well my whole time in Anaheim and I know Albert feels the same way. It's possible he could hit 30 or 40 home runs again this year, and that's really exciting, because if he does that, it's a huge lift for our offense."
What makes New York such a favorite road stop for Wilson is also what makes it challenging.
"One of the worst things about coming to New York is the conundrum at the end of the game -- if you eat the awesome food that's in the clubhouse, because it's the best food in the league, or if you go to one of the best restaurants in the country, which are here in New York.
"It's a city that's constantly changing and revealing itself to you in new ways, and this is my ninth year coming to New York, and I always look forward to it. I like to go to Blue Ribbon a lot. Blue Ribbon is one of my favorite restaurants, they stay open 'til 4 in the morning, they always have paella on the menu, which is one of my favorite dishes. I like to go there, I like to go to Bond Street Sushi. There's a lot of really, really good restaurants. So I'm not going to spoil anything else for any other locals, but it's usually talk to your friends and find good local dining."
Having a hair deal means pressure to have good hair, he said, but the benefit was clear Thursday during his grooming.
"That's the other benefit, you just send a text message and someone shows up to cut your hair, groom your hair, make you look nice," Wilson said. "The whole idea is to take pressure off you so you don't feel like you have anything to worry about when you take your hat off."