Wood on the Mend and Maybe Headed to Cleveland
Matt Travis | On 22, Jul 2013
When players have to have Tommy John surgery, often times they will ease their way into baseball again and attempt to slowly settle back into the swing of things. Blake Wood however seems to think otherwise, as he has come storming back through the minor leagues this season in an attempt to help the Indians as soon as possible.
After having Tommy John surgery to repair a torn UCL sustained on May 22 of last season, Wood has pitched his way up through Mahoning Valley, Lake County, Akron and now is pitching in Columbus on the 40-man roster during this season. Over his time in the minor leagues this season, Wood has just a 1.72 ERA with 14 hits, 12 walks and 20 strikeouts over 15.2 innings. During his six games he has pitched so far for the Clippers, Wood has given up just three hits, four walks, no runs while setting down 12 batters on strikes.
Wood started off his career in 2006, when the Kansas City Royals drafted him in the third round, 77th overall. After spending three seasons pitching in the minor leagues, Wood debuted on May 12, 2010 for the Royals. Over his first two major league seasons, Wood was able to see steady improvement from year one to year two. During his debut 2010 season, Wood pitched 49.2 innings, allowing 52 hits, 22 walks, 28 earned runs and only 31 strike outs, amassing a 5.07 ERA. The 2011 season saw Wood with steady improvement in all categories, pitching 69.2 innings, allowing just 66 hits, 32 walks, and only 29 earned run in 20 more innings then the year before. His most important improvement however came in his strikeout rate, as he doubled his number of strikes, 31 to 62.
He looked primed for an even better 2012 season before being diagnosed with a UCL tear in his throwing elbow requiring Tommy John surgery on May 22. During the off-season before this year, the Royals released Wood, allowing the Indians to sign him to a one year, $560,000 contract.
Wood started his rehab assignment this season by pitching for the Lake County Captains. During his stay with the Captains, Wood pitched in three games, going 2.2 innings. While it seemed as though he might not have had his best control to start the year, allowing three walks and only three strikeouts, Wood was still able to go scoreless and allow just one hit.
After his time with the Captains, Wood was moved to Double-A Akron, where he stayed for seven games. While Wood gave up more hits and runs in Double-A, eight hits and three earned runs, he found his control a bit more as his strikeout to walk rate rose from 1 to 1.2. This was a very promising sign for Wood, as it showed that he was started to settle back into his strong strikeout form he had in his 2011 season.
After a one inning, scoreless outing for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, Wood came to Columbus on July 4 to pitch at the Triple-A level. While Wood has shown progress during his time up until Columbus, he has seemed to really hit his stride during his time with the Clippers. With Wood pitching a small amount per game, no more than one and one-third innings a game, he has never allowed more then one hit a game, while getting at least one strike out minimum. During his first outing on July 4, Wood was able to get the three batters he faced down in order by mostly focusing on speed. The first batter was fooled on a fastball and swung far too late, followed by an easy pop out on a high fastball and getting the third out on a change of pace change up down and away.
Wood however doesn’t need to focus solely on his speed to get batters out as he showed in his July 12 outing. Wood came in during a tie game in the eighth inning and was able to strike out the side. The first batter started out seeing a pitch in the middle of the plate he took for strike one, before Wood was able to change the eye level, throwing three pitches up in the zone which the batter fouled off, before throwing his fifth pitch down and away to get the batter off balance, striking out swinging. The next batter was more of the same, changing his location from top to bottom for the strike out swinging. For the last batter of the inning, Wood changed his approach and was able to go back and forth from the outside of the plate back inside, leaving the batter guessing and flailing at a strike three swinging.
During his most recent appearance on Sunday night, Wood gave up one of his only three hits as a Clipper to the leadoff man in the eighth inning. However instead of panicking or losing focus, Wood was able to get the next batter to fall behind in the count 0-2 before swinging at a off speed pitch up and out of the strike zone for an easy pop up. The next two batters he faced, the three and four hitters in the lineup, both were able to make Wood work by driving the counts full, but both could not handle his fastball, resulting in a strike out and foul tip strikeout.
Overall, Wood has been absolutely dominant for the Clippers, coming in and providing six scoreless innings over six games, allowing no runs at all, despite inheriting runners on base in two of his outings. He has boosted his strikeout to walk ratio up to 2.75, with an opponent batting average at .143.
While it is best to still be cautious with anyone coming off of a major surgery such as Tommy John, the outlook for Wood is a very positive one. He seems to have not lost any of his control or speed due to his injury and confidence seems to be rising with every game. He has shown no ill effects from the surgery and has a position on the 40-man roster, making him able to play for the Indians when needed. During a season where the bullpen has struggled and has had pieces shifted into different roles for the Tribe, do not be surprised if Blake Wood were to come up and help the Indians.