Brian Wilson was as mirthful as possible for someone discussing such sobering news.
The Giants’ three-time All-Star closer and World Series hero acknowledged Sunday morning that he is almost certainly headed for season-ending Tommy John surgery to reconstruct the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
Yet he guaranteed he would resume his career with the Giants next season, he was adamant he will return stronger than ever and he said he would remain a visible presence in the clubhouse this season. He anticipates celebrating with them in September, too.
“I don’t think (the bullpen is) going to falter,” Wilson said. “I think we’re going to take the West no matter what, whether I’m here or not.”
Wilson admitted it was his elbow, not his ankle, that bothered him when he threw a pitch to the Rockies’ Tyler Colvin in Colorado on Thursday. Wilson had told trainers and coaches a fib because he did not want his season to end with his being escorted off the mound.
He barely escaped a bases-loaded jam to save the 4-2 victory for Madison Bumgarner.
“My mindset is, if it’s inflammation, just get out of this mess,” Wilson said. “If this is season ending, your last act will be to preserve Bumgarner’s win.”
Wilson joked that Mike Krukow and Duane Kuiper should be ready in the booth for him. He said he’ll win an Emmy out from under their noses, too. And apparently, Major League Baseball is $14.99 richer because Wilson, now focused on being a fan this season, bought the MLB At-Bat app on his iPad first thing Sunday morning.
Below is the raw locker room interview and a transcript of what WIlson said:
Here’s the full transcript of the interview:
Q: How are you handling this diagnosis?
A: I’m doing fine. I’m not down at all. The likelihood is, yeah the season’s over with. I’ll be getting a couple more opinions but we all know what structural damage is. The likelihood of me throwing again this year is minimal.
I’ve prepared for a different view of the game. I have an opportunity now to be a better teammate and watch other stories unravel and be more of a student of the game. I still have a lot to learn and I still have a lot to teach. By no stretch of the imagination is my journey over. This is a mild bump in my road. Nothing has been easy when I’ve pitched or lived so this is an opportunity for me to get a better arm.
Why is that disappointing? I get to throw harder. I like it. I like my odds. I get to become more involved in the community and Kruk and Kuip better watch out because I’ll be upstairs in the booth, I’ll be announcing games. Maybe win an Emmy.
Q: When did you first notice something was wrong?
A: 2010 -- I mean, if you want to be honest. I was pitching on borrowed time last year. If you want to look at timing, yeah, getting hurt sucks, but the timing of this, being April, and you look at 12 months from now, if I do have to get surgery, I’ll be pitching again in April with another season under my belt.
And I still will be a Giant because I have four arbitration years and so legally I’m theirs. Which is good. So basically go see a couple more doctors this week and there will be a decision by the end of the week.
Q: This would be your second Tommy John surgery. Will that first experience help you?
A: I’m not worried about coming back at all. It’s not even a question. I’ll be back pitching. The thing I’ll be disappointed about is, uh, I’m no slouch to working out, but I just know what I’m in for. I know it’s a grueling process, daily, but I’ve never shied away from hard work. I’ve never shied away from the opportunity to get better and I’ve got a full year to work on some stuff.
And you know what? Now I get to take in some Giants baseball from a different perspective. The first thing I did this morning was download that MLB app on my iPad. So I’ll be watching a lot of games. I’m not going to disappear. If I do have to rehab, it’s going to be here. I’ll be in the locker room. I’m not going to miss a game.
My spirits aren’t down. I know a lot of people are sad. I know Giants fans are going to look at this as a huge loss, but you know, we’ve got the best bullpen in the league. I’ve gotten the honor to play with those guys, teach them a lot of things and they’ve taught me a lot of things. And they’re going to fill my role the best they can and I don’t think they’re going to falter. I think we’re going to take the West no matter what, whether I’m here or not. We’ve got a great lineup, we’ve got the same coaching staff back, the front office did a marvelous job putting together a team that’s going to win and that’s exactly what we’re going to do .
Q: You’re confident the bullpen will thrive without you?
A: Of course. The other seven guys are very good. There’s going to be different responsibilities and more roles to be filled and I know they’re going to do a great job. That’s not even a question. I’m not going to sit here and say I’m the savior and things are going to fall apart. No, not at all.
Q: What did you feel Thursday in Colorado?
A: Yeah, you could tell what pitch didn’t work well. I walked behind the mound. I threw 10 more pitches. My mind set is, if it’s inflammation, just get out of this mess. If this is season ending, your last act will be to preserve Bumgarner’s win.
Q: Any regrets about how you handled that?
A: That’s now I play baseball. Push it to the limits. I was able to help our team do some great things last year regardless of how horrible it felt throwing a baseball.
Q: What went into the decision not to have surgery when you were on the DL last year?
A: That was a different thing. That was forearm, flexor (tendon). This is ligament stuff. That didn’t require surgery. It just required a little time off. But I guess you could say this was coming and it’s better now than any time based on the time frame it takes to come back. It’s a year. No big deal. If I plan on playing forever, then this is a small percentage of my career.
Once I’m on the mound again next year, playing baseball, I’m not going to look back at this and say, `Wow that sucked,’ or `Woe is me.’ I’m not like that.
The first time I got (Tommy John surgery), I looked at it as an opportunity to throw harder. You know, 21-year-old kid, I get to throw harder. That’s pretty awesome. The difficult thing is the monotony of all the exercises and the time it takes. It’s more mental anguish than physical anguish. Because you wake up and you’re told you have to do this work, you complain three minutes into it and then you do the work. It’s the mental part that can be overbearing, but you know what? I’ve done it once. Do it again. That’s the case.
Q: Will being at the ballpark for your rehab be a therapy of sorts?
A: I think so. I’ve got 24 best friends out there, and I’ve got the coaching staff. And you know what? I’ve got an entire city that’s my friend. So I’m not going to be down. I’m a fan of baseball. So I’ve got another 150-something games to watch and see what kind of story unfolds.
Q: You have one more arbitration year left. Do you imagine it will be difficult to come to terms on a contract?
A: Well, like I said, if I plan on playing baseball forever I’m not worried about contracts. As long as I’m pitching, things will work out. It’s not something I think about at all. The Giants have me for another year. You’re welcome.
Q: You’ll see Dr. Andrews in Florida?
A: I have to call Jimmy, see what’s open.
Q: Will you see Lewis Yocum (in Anaheim)?
A: That’s a possibility. There’s plenty of great doctors. It doesn’t hurt to get everyone’s opinions on this.
Q: Do the tests show a UCL tear?
A: I didn’t ... That’s not something I really know about. I just go by how my arm basically feels, what I’ve gone through already, similarities and all that, and what (trainer Dave Groeschner) and all the other doctors are portraying.
Read more: Wilson confirms he is done for the season.