Wilson near return to All-Star form
Center fielder finding touch, making difference in dugout
DENVER -- Colorado center fielder Preston Wilson's hard swing and speedy gait are back. With it has come a return to the form he demonstrated while earning an All-Star Game reserve spot selection in 2003.
Wilson has hit safely in nine of Colorado's last 11 games, during which he has a .353 batting average and five home runs. After a slow start, Wilson is putting up the torrid performance that could easily earn him votes in this year's All-Star Game, which can be cast online, in stadiums or wherever ballots are available.
Wilson is batting .269 and leads the team with nine home runs. His 32 RBIs rank second on the team to rookie shortstop Clint Barmes' 34. The injured Barmes is the only Rockies player among the top votegetters at any position.
Hitting should pick up for Wilson, who was affected by the prolonged slump of Todd Helton. However, Helton went 3-for-5 on Sunday, and his long at-bats and harder-hit balls are signals that he could experience a breakout. That could mean more men on base and more pitches to hit for Wilson, who cleaned up in 2003 when opponents pitched around Helton.
"That's the whole concept," Wilson said. "If they're not going to pitch to him, then they'll pitch to me. Unfortunately, nobody stays hot for six months of the season. But it all turns around eventually, and it'll turn around for him."
Manager Clint Hurdle is happy to have folks beginning to worry again about the heart of his lineup.
"Everybody feeds off that, [Helton's] starting to feel a little bit, putting balls the other way, getting lengthy at-bats," Hurdle said. "It's huge. Wilson's picked it up. We get those two going in the middle, we're a whole new offensive ballclub."
Wilson has become a new defensive player after shedding a bulky knee brace during Colorado's last road trip. Wilson underwent two surgeries on his left knee and missed all but 58 games. He continued to use the brace at the start of this year.
Recently, Wilson has made a catch of a deep fly just in front of the ivy-covered brick wall at Wrigley Field, and on at least two occasions during this homestand covered large amounts of ground to nab hard-hit balls.
"It feels good," he said. "I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that nothing pops up."
Flanked in the outfield for many games by second-year left fielder Matt Holliday and rookie right fielder Brad Hawpe, and backed by rookie Cory Sullivan, Wilson has embraced a leadership role even though it seems possible that the Rockies' youth/salary control strategy will mean he'll be traded before the season is done.
The mistakes of youth have helped lead to a 19-36 record that is the worst in the NL. Wilson was hard on himself when he wasn't getting key hits, but remained a positive force in a Colorado clubhouse that isn't expected to be his home for the entire season. Wilson's resurgence is one of the reasons for the Rockies' four-game win streak through Sunday.
"We've played a few good games in a row and had everybody contribute, which is nice," Wilson said. "Hopefully we can keep things going for awhile."
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.