The St. Louis Cardinals 2005 draft class was headed by Colby Rasmus and Tyler Greene, taken in the first round. Shortly after, at number 70 in the second round, Texas high schooler Josh Wilson was selected by the club. The right-handed pitcher received a bonus in excess of $500,000 to pass up a scholarship to the University of Texas and instead play professional baseball.
While Rasmus will be making his major league introduction this week and Greene is on the rise, starting with Triple-A Memphis, Wilson will find himself in a most familiar but vastly different part of the baseball world. On Tuesday, the now-healthy 22-year-old will be reporting to Cardinals Extended Spring Training camp in Jupiter, Florida, in an attempt to re-start his professional career.
It has been a long road for Wilson, with many twists and turns. After a short introduction with Johnson City in 2005, Wilson was our 23rd-ranked Cardinals prospect that winter. He made it just three starts into the 2006 season with Quad Cities when he was felled with a tear of the labrum in his pitching shoulder.
Stepping back to Batavia in 2007, the pain returned. After a cortisone shot and an attempt at rehab, Wilson’s season ended at just eight innings before he underwent arthroscopic surgery that July.
Back with Quad Cities in 2008, Wilson had been pitching well before struggling in his final three starts. The shoulder discomfort reached the point that after 68 1/3 innings and 15 appearances last season, Wilson made the most difficult decision to retire, leaving the game he loved.
“It just finally hit me that you know what? Maybe this just isn’t for me. It was a great ride… It was by far the toughest decision I’ve ever had to make, but I made it with no regrets,” he explained.
Since last July, Wilson went without playing organized baseball or rehabbing for the first time in years. Baseball had been removed from his life plan.
“I honestly didn’t think I would ever pick up a baseball again,” Wilson admitted.
Yet, he couldn’t go cold turkey. Wilson eventually did throw again and was pleasantly surprised to learn that the persistent pain that had dogged him for the last two years was gone. In fact, he felt the best he had since high school. After consulting with his parents and new wife, in February Wilson decided to mount his comeback.
The Cardinals had placed Wilson on the restricted list, a wise move given their considerable investment in the pitcher. That way, they maintained their rights to him, which came into play when he decided to return.
The pitcher asked his agent to contact the Cardinals, who expressed interest. A phone conversation with Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jeff Luhnow closed the deal. Wilson couldn’t have hurt matters with his genuine demonstration of desire and willingness to do whatever the organization wanted – that and the fact he felt great.
“I’ve got a lot of zip on the ball. It feels like it is flying out of my arm. It is really coming out of my arm nice and easy,” he excitedly explained.
The decision was made for Wilson to prepare himself to this coming week’s assignment to Extended with the next steps to be decided by a combination of the pitcher’s results on the mound and organizational needs at the time he is deemed ready to return to full action.
Overall in parts of four professional seasons, Wilson registered a 4-10 record with a 4.81 ERA, appearing in 33 games, 28 starts. He fanned 90 and walked 49 in 142 2/3 professional innings. Wilson plans to pick it up from there and see where it takes him.
“Fortunately, they gave me that opportunity again and I am going to make the best of it,” Wilson said assuredly.
Scout.com subscribers can hear Wilson discuss his decision to retire and much more that went into his subsequent reversal in this exclusive audio interview.
Listen to Audio (8:16)
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Catch his Cardinals commentary daily at his blog, The Cardinal Nation.
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