Blake Wood learns in unique way that he made Indians roster
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — There are a variety of ways in which players have found out they have made an Opening Day roster for the first time. Not many though have found out like Indians pitcher Blake Wood.
It was during a pitching change in the seventh inning of Monday’s spring training game against the Reds that the 28-year-old right-hander found out he earned a spot.
"When I went to take him out, (catcher Luke) Carlin was coming and I told him to stay back there a little bit," manager Terry Francona said. "I went out there and asked (Wood) if he ever made the team on the mound? He was like no. I go ‘well, you just did.’ After that we came and talked to him the dugout but you could tell he was pretty excited."
Francona and general manager Chris Antonetti were planning on telling Wood that he made the roster the next morning but bullpen coach Kevin Cash told him that there was some anxiety from Wood and a couple others. Francona, who rarely takes his cell phone to the field but did in this case because there were a lot of moving parts to the roster, called Antonetti, who was watching the minor-league games, and asked if it was OK to tell Wood that he made it.
"Just coming back from what I did and making the Opening Day roster is really fulfilling. It has given me perspective on a lot of things," Wood said.
Two years ago, Wood didn’t even know if he would be pitching again. He underwent Tommy John Surgery on his right elbow on May 25, 2012. The Indians claimed him off waivers from Kansas City five months later.
The Indians had seen plenty of Wood both at the major- and minor-league levels to think that he was worth the risk of claiming, even five months removed from Tommy John.
"He had great arm strength and when healthy we knew he was going to be an effective major-league pitcher. We were trying to see that process through," Antonetti said.
Wood’s rehab with the Indians began in May in in Double-A Akron but elbow soreness forced him to shut things down for 10 days. He went to Class-A Lake County for three games but had more soreness that forced him out for another month. After 18 appearances with Triple-A Columbus, where he had a 2.16 ERA and opposing hitters batted just .186, Wood was called to Cleveland in September and had two scoreless appearances.
Wood’s fastball averaged 95 miles per hour with the Royals. The velocity has gotten better with the Indians as there were some games last season where he was at 100. What the organization wanted him to improve on was having a quicker delivery to the mound and to be able to hold runners on base instead of them stealing.
Wood labeled it a work in progress, but Francona was more effusive in his praise.
"He not only got better but he got really good at it to the point where it is going to be hard to run on him because he is so quick. To be honest with you it kind of surprised us," Francona said. "We would have been happy if the guys who aren’t supposed to run won’t. But he has the ability to be quick enough where it is going to be hard to run on him."
Francona did say that Wood is still erratic in the strike zone and struggles against the first hitter, but that he has bounced back in getting the rest of the order.
Even though he was part of the team in September last year, Wood didn’t truly feel like he was a part of it. With winning a spot in spring training, now it feels like he does.
"Knowing you are one of the 25 and not one of the 40 being called up, it makes you feel like you belong," he said. "It has been a long road but I’m here now. You don’t know what is going to happen coming back from major surgery. With the Indians sticking with me and giving me a shot, I’m happy they did that."