ARLINGTON -- During a scene in The Hunt for Red October, when the sharpest military and CIA minds are trying to determine just what's going on, a naval officer grumbles that Russians don't do anything without a plan.
Christopher John Wilson doesn't sound like someone whose family tree branches out to Mother Russia.
But the Texas Rangers' left-hander, better known as C.J. or even str8edgeracer in the Twitterverse, doesn't get out of bed each day without a plan.
All that deliberating and calculating has a purpose, beyond just making Wilson one of the top starting pitchers in the American League.
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He loves to prove his doubters wrong. Many wondered if he could successfully transition from a short reliever to a front-of-the-rotation workhorse. He did it once, but some didn't think he could do it again.
Wilson faces those who remain unsure of him yet again today, when he pitches the first game of the AL Division Series at Rangers Ballpark.
He was a No. 2 starter last year behind Cliff Lee, who pitched brilliantly in this series in 2010. Lee is gone, and left behind is an expectation that Wilson needs to be as effective as Lee was as the Rangers launch their hunt for October success.
Wilson has a plan for that.
"I'm just going to do what I can to be myself," he said. "It's not like I have to do anything extra. I'm just going to go out there with the same game plan and prepare the same way and make it normal."
That sounds simple enough, but things aren't always as they appear with a left-hander who led the Rangers in victories (16, tied with Derek Holland), ERA (2.94), innings pitched (2231/3) and strikeouts (206).
Wilson also went 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA in three starts this year against the Rays, and beat them last year in Game 2 of the ALDS.
But executing on game day is only the culmination of his master plan. Before he gets to the mound, Wilson has examined his upcoming opponent on video, studied the scouting reports from pitching coach Mike Maddux and bullpen coach Andy Hawkins, and worked to keep his mechanics consistent.
He has also put himself through a rigorous between-starts conditioning program, along the lines of Lee and Rangers team president Nolan Ryan.
The tip of his middle finger, where blisters like to form, is dried by a laser each day.
His diet is meticulously designed.
"He's the most dedicated guy I've been around," Maddux said.
Wilson even goes so far as to sit in his britches in a sub-zero cryosauna to help avoid fatigue.
"I did that today, and that was cool," Wilson said. "Maybe next year it will be something different. Everything layers on top of itself. I have less and less free time with each year because I decided to do more and more stuff to put it all together."
But he finds free time, plenty of it. And that's part of his plan, too.
It might seem like his sports-car racing team, charitable work, photography, social media and even dejaying would interfere with his day job, but instead his hobbies work in concert to keep him on task.
His teammates know all about Wilson's off-field endeavors, and they haven't seen them interfere with his ability to pitch every fifth day.
"Whatever makes him happy," infielder/designated hitter Michael Young said. "People should be allowed to do whatever they do off the field, as long as it doesn't affect their focus here. C.J.'s No. 1 priority is here at the ballpark."
Said Wilson: "The reality is that everybody has stuff off the field. Some guys have families, wives, dogs, businesses on the side. For me those things are actually a nice diversion. There's only so much baseball you can take, with someone like me, I guess. It allows me to relax and enjoy the game a lot more when I have light switches that I can turn off and on."
When on the mound, each pitch Wilson throws to each batter is calculated. Each game plan is attacked with scouting reports and video research fresh on his mind.
But he makes each start just trying to be the best he can be, which he believes can be every bit as good as Lee and probably better. That mindset helps him execute his plan, and the approach won't change today against Tampa Bay to open the playoffs.
"I just know I pitched better than I did last year, which gives me hope to pitch better next year," said Wilson, who largely achieved his goal of improving 5 to 10 percent upon what he did in 2010. "Do that, and you're a better pitcher and people don't say that you're fluke.
"You always have to prove something to people. I've always believed in myself. I know what I'm capable of. It's just a matter of doing it."
Jeff Wilson, 817-390-7760