Dodgers' Wilson makes return from elbow surgery
MIAMI -- Former All-Star closer Brian Wilson acknowledged feeling butterflies in the bullpen as he warmed up Thursday, which was understandable since he hadn't pitched in 16 months.
Once on the mound, he took a deep breath and was ready to go.
"I only have a brief moment out there, and I can either crumble or rise to the occasion," he said. "I can tell you crumbling isn't something I'd like to do."
Wilson gave up a two-out double, struck out two and looked a lot like the pitcher who saved 171 games for the Dodgers' rivals, the San Francisco Giants.
"It felt normal," the bearded right-hander said. "It was long overdue, a very arduous process, but I'm glad I went through it so I could appreciate baseball even more. I felt comfortable. I felt like I hadn't skipped a beat."
Wilson threw 19 pitches, 11 for strikes, and reached 94 mph on the scoreboard radar gun.
"Pretty impressive," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He comes out throwing strikes. His stuff seemed sharp. It was good."
The game was Wilson's first since April 12, 2012, with the Giants. He underwent reconstructive elbow surgery later that month, and the Dodgers signed him after he was non-tendered by San Francisco last winter.
When Wilson struck out Justin Ruggiano to complete the Dodgers' 17th shutout this year, he celebrated with his familiar crossed-arm, finger-pointing gesture.
"I was very impressed with his stuff and the way he threw the ball and his confidence," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. "He's going to help us out. The guy has gotten last outs in World Series games, so he's somebody we can count on who won't get rattled in tough situations, which is another great piece to have."
Wilson joins a deep bullpen that has the second-best ERA in the NL since the All-Star break. He said his role will be to "get outs," and he's looking forward to pitching in the important games to come for the NL West leaders.
"There's going to be no lack of fun," he said. "This team is playing well and is just a great group of guys having a lot of good laughs. When you feel comfortable in the clubhouse, it only correlates to success out on the field, and that's how everyone's playing. There's energy coming from all sorts of players here right now. We're on a good run."
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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