Wilson remembers pitching for Rays

Wilson recalls pitching for Rays

ST. PETERSBURG -- Over the course of four seasons in the big leagues, Josh Wilson's versatility has landed him a roster spot on six different teams, often as a utility infielder and a spare part.

Wilson, Seattle's starting shortstop for its two-game series against the Rays this week, has been known for having a strong infield arm. Ironically, it was with Tampa Bay two years ago that he really put his flexibility to the test.

In a mid-June game against the Marlins in 2007, Wilson was called upon in the eighth inning of a blowout loss to pitch. Some of his former teammates haven't forgotten it.

"He was throwing strikes, getting outs," Rays pitcher Andy Sonnanstine recalled.

"He was blowing gas," Rays starter James Shields echoed. "He was throwing some cheese."

With the Rays down, 14-8, in the seventh, and most of the bullpen arms already spent, manager Joe Maddon needed a stopgap. He decided on Wilson, Tampa Bay's then-26-year-old backup infielder.

"Joe just came up to me and asked me when the last time I pitched was," Wilson said. "I told him high school. I think that was good enough for him."

He warmed up in the bullpen, which was practically empty after the Rays had gone through most of their pitchers. When the time came for him to pitch, catcher Raul Casanova implored him to keep it simple.

"He said, 'We're throwing all fastballs,'" Wilson said. "I have a changeup, curveball, I was ready to throw them. He didn't want me to get hurt or anything."

Wilson retired the first two batters, then allowed a walk and a single before getting Marlins outfielder Jeremy Hermida to pop up to end the inning.

"One of our better performances as an infielder-used-as-a-pitcher later in a game," Maddon joked. "In a blowout, he did a really nice job with that."

It's become a calling of sorts for Wilson, who threw an inning for both Arizona and San Diego this season. With the Padres, Wilson was called in to pitch the 18th inning and gave up a three-run homer to Mark Reynolds to take the loss.

It bumped his career ERA to 9.00, something he's not exactly pleased about.

"Arizona had no idea, they didn't know that I'd pitched before," Wilson said. "It was the same deal, we had wasted the whole bullpen, guys were just worn out, so they just asked me if I could go in there and pitch. I told them, 'I've done it before.'"

As a veteran to the mound now, Wilson said he's tried to work on his velocity.

"In the game with the Padres, they told me I hit 92 mph once and I think 90 mph a couple times," Wilson grinned.

Wilson doesn't anticipate too many outings in the future. But he knows, if the Mariners need an extra arm, they have just the utility man to use.

"When he came off [the mound], he was all pumped up and stuff," Shields remembered. "He said, 'This pitching thing ain't hard.'"

Zach Schonbrun is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.