Red-eyed but smiling, a travel-weary Jack Wilson arrived in the Braves clubhouse about 10 minutes before 6 p.m. Thursday night, excited to join a team in a playoff hunt for the first time in his 11-year career.
“Oh yeah, first time I think I’ve even smelled it,” said Wilson, who spent 8 ½ losing seasons with the Pirates and the past 2 ½ with Seattle. “It’s exciting just to be in a playoff run. Obviously the team here and the organization as a whole is pretty legendary, and some of the guys in this room. Playing against them for so many years in Pittsburgh, it’s nice to be on the other side.”
Wilson, who was traded late Wednesday night with cash for a player to be named, was up early to catch a 7 a.m. flight pacific time, and had a 90-minute layover in Salt Lake City. But a little sleeplessness was his only complaint. The sore heel that has him on the disabled list is feeling good, he said, and he’ll be ready to come off when he’s eligible on Friday.
Wilson said the timing worked out perfectly that he could show the Braves in a full workout Wednesday he was ready to go.
Waiting for him here is a backup middle infield job and some insurance if Alex Gonzalez or Dan Uggla gets injured.
“I’ve always admired him across the way when he played with the Pirates,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “This guy made some plays defensively; he’s really, really good. You can do some stuff with him offensively, bunt, hit and run. He’s one of those baseball players. They just come out and beat you. I’m looking forward to having him on the club for the rest of the way.”
Wilson wore No. 2 in Pittsburgh and Seattle, but Alex Gonzalez wears it here, and No. 3 is retired for Dale Murphy. So a No. 1 jersey waiting on Wilson in his new locker.
“It hasn’t really hit me yet,” Wilson said. “(But) when you walk in here and see the jersey and see some of the guys, it’s pretty exciting.”
Wilson played with Eric Hinske and Nate McLouth in Pittsburgh and played on the same All-Star team that toured Japan in 2004 with Scott Linebrink.
To make room for Wilson on the 40-man roster, the Braves designated left-hander Dustin Richardson for assignment. He’d already cleared waivers and accepted a return assignment to Gwinnett.