PAWTUCKET, R.I. — His days started at 5 a.m.
Each morning during the offseason, Alex Wilson woke up at the crack of dawn, mentally prepared for the grind.
But the grueling labor didn't occur on the baseball diamond. No, from 5 a.m. to 1 p.m., the reigning Red Sox minor league pitcher of the year wound up stocking shelves at Lowe's Home Improvement.
"You got to pay the bills," Wilson said, smiling. "My minor league salary just isn't cutting it all the time at home."
That trend, however, could be on the verge of ending. After compiling a 10-4 record and a 3.11 ERA between Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket last season, Wilson is on the fast track to earning a major-league promotion in 2012.
Although Wilson started just four games in Pawtucket, he enjoyed a seamless transition from Double-A. Through 21 innings with the PawSox, the 25-year-old fanned 26 batters and posted a 3.43 ERA.
All the while, he's monitored the opportunities in Boston. With Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey sidelined after Tommy John surgery, Wilson believes he is capable of filling a void for the Red Sox.
"I think there's no reason why I shouldn't get my shot up there this year," Wilson said. "As long as I do what I'm supposed to do, perform and pitch well, at some point I should get a shot. I honestly believe that, and as long as I do my part, hopefully I'll get that opportunity."
Wilson admits that his development is ongoing. Last season, he switched grips on his two-seam fastball to induce more ground balls. And despite possessing an effective fastball and slider, Wilson's changeup remains a work in progress.
But his adjustments have pleased Ben Crockett, the Red Sox' director of player development. Crockett specifically credited Wilson's mental maturation from 2010 to 2011 as the key to his improvement.
"I think he controlled his emotions a lot better," Crockett said. "I think coming in last year, he had really good stuff — we all know that — and at times, he would try to overthrow a little bit and do more than he was capable of doing in Double-A. Once he came back for the second time, he was comfortable with himself and was able to do that."
The next step for the hurler, Crockett said, is to immerse himself in scouting reports. If Wilson can properly learns hitters' tendencies, Crockett could foresee a call-up to Boston for him this season.
"I think so," Crockett said of Wilson's major-league chances. "I think any time anybody is in Triple-A at this point could make an impact on the big league team. I think it's something that time will tell, but being in big league camp and getting a chance to compete with those guys I think is something that will help."
Before that moment approaches, Wilson has established other goals for the upcoming season. After posting a 3.11 ERA in 2011, he is looking to tally a near-3.00 ERA this time around.
For Wilson, it's all part of the plan to earn his promotion and end his offseason job at Lowe's.
"I look forward to the challenge," Wilson said. "We brought in a lot of free agents this year and have a great mix. No one knows what can happen."
Photo via Flickr/tjperr