C.J. Wilson's transition from bullpen to rotation has been huge for the Rangers

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After four years spent exclusively as a reliever C.J. Wilson convinced the Rangers to give him the chance to claim a rotation spot this spring and five months later he’s been one of the best starting pitchers in the American League.
Wilson shut out the Royals for 7.2 innings yesterday, improving to 14-5 with a 2.88 ERA and 140 strikeouts in 171.2 innings. He leads the league with 77 walks, but has made up for it by having the league’s lowest opponents’ batting average and remarkably giving up just eight homers in 707 plate appearances despite calling Texas’ hitter-friendly ballpark home.
He’s been absolutely unhittable against left-handed batters, holding them to a .124 average and zero homers in 129 at-bats, and even right-handers are hitting just .227/.327/.333 against him. He’s essentially taken his effectiveness as a reliever and transferred it almost exactly to starting, all while throwing 100 more (and counting) innings than ever before.
What’s interesting about Wilson’s transition from relieving to starting is that he’s thrown significantly fewer fastballs than he did working out of the bullpen. Each season from 2005-2009 he threw at least 70 percent fastballs, but this year he’s relied on the pitch just 49.1 percent of the time, which is the sixth-lowest rate among all AL starters.
Wilson is throwing a cutter far more, with a great deal of success, and has also leaned heavily on his curveball and changeup after years of barely using either pitch. As a reliever Wilson threw his fastball or slider 90-95 percent of the time, but as a starter he’s used those two pitches just 62 percent of the time. Wilson believed he had the stuff to succeed as a starter, the Rangers gave him the opportunity at age 29, and now he’s got the fourth-best ERA in the league for a first-place team.
Plus, he’s great to follow on Twitter.

Pirates hire Ben Cherington as their new general manager

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The Pittsburgh Pirates have hired Ben Cherington as the team’s new general manager. They do so after the general manager meetings ended, but better late than never.

Cherington served as GM of the Boston Red Sox for four years, winning the World Series in 2013, but resigned during the 2015 season after Dave Dombrowski was named Boston’s new president of baseball operations. Which was a defacto demotionn for Cherington who, until then, had the final say in baseball decisions. Dombrowski, of course, was fired late in the season this year. Cherington went on to work for the Toronto Blue Jays as a vice president, but was seen as biding his time for another GM position. Now he has one.

Cherington takes over in Pittsburgh for executive vice president and general manager Neal Huntington, who was fired after a 12 years at the helm. Also fired was team president Frank Coonelly. Travis Williams replaced Coonelly recently. While the Pirates experienced a few years of contention under Huntington and Coonelly, they have slid out of contention in recent years as the club has traded away promising players for little return, all while cutting payroll. There’s a very big rebuilding job ahead of Cherington.

The first move he’ll have to make: hire a manager, as the team still hasn’t replaced Clint Hurdle since he was dismissed in the final weekend of the regular season.