Blake Wood Impresses, Earns Spot in ‘Pen
The Cleveland Indians lost several pieces from the bullpen mafia following the conclusion of the 2013 season. Chris Perez was released. Joe Smith was deemed too expensive and move on to Anaheim. Even Rich Hill, the lefty who struggled at times, ended up moving on to greener pastures. That also didn’t include an injury to Vinnie Pestano that left his future in jeopardy.
Enter, Blake Wood.
Looking to secure one of the vacant spots in the Tribe’s bullpen, Blake Wood arrived at camp on a mission to prove once and for all what he could do at the big league level. After a little over 100 appearances in two seasons with the Kansas City Royals during 2010 and 2011, Wood required surgery on a torn UCL in his right elbow. The Tommy John Surgery caused him to miss the entirety of the 2012 season and put his career in jeopardy, even at the tender age of 26.
Following his recovery from Tommy John surgery, Wood signed on with the Indians for 2013. In 29 games split between just about every minor league level of the organization, Wood earned himself a spot on the Indians’ big league roster for the month of September. He pitched well in his two appearances and earned an invite to camp for the 2014 season.
It was during camp that Blake Wood emerged as a legit contender for a spot in the Indians’ bullpen. In 9.2 innings spanning 11 games, Wood posted a 0.93 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, and 10.2 SO/9. Impressive stats, albeit with a limited sample size.
It didn’t seem to matter much to the Indians. What they saw in those 9.2 innings of work was enough for them. Earlier this week, Wood reached the apex of his comeback attempt by being named to the Indians Opening Day roster as a member of the bullpen. His role figures to be that of a mid innings reliever primarily. The bulk of the late innings will go to John Axford, Bryan Shaw, and Cody Allen along with a healthy dose of former setup man, Vinnie Pestano.
The key for Wood and his eventual success for the Indians will be location. It sounds rather cliché, but it’s the honest truth. Blake wood has never been known for pinpoint control. For his career, his peripherals point to a serious lack of control and ability to strike batter out, 4.3 BB/9, 7.0 SO/9, and 1.65 SO/BB with a 1.475 WHIP. Admittedly those numbers mean a bit more to a reliever than they would to a starter, but in any case, they point to an inability to command the zone. That hasn’t been the case this spring. Wood has had excellent control and had razor-sharp precision.
Regardless, the fact that Blake Wood was able to put up they type of spring that he needed in order to just make the Indians’ roster says plenty about his character and intestinal fortitude. Wood needed to perform well, knowing a spot wouldn’t be handed to him and he responded. Hopefully that type of performance translates to when the games count for real. If not, someone else will be ready and waiting, just like Blake Wood.