Brandon Wood set to take his shot at Angels camp
It certainly appears as though the time is right for Brandon Wood to step up for the Los Angeles Angels.
After putting up years of strong numbers in the minor leagues while the Angels front office resisted trade offers for him, Wood enters a new Angels camp unlike either of the other two he's attended.
To begin with, he's out of options and can't be sent back to Triple-A Salt Lake City for another season. And with Chone Figgins gone to Seattle via free agency, third base is open for the taking.
``I'm coming in with a spot open and that's never happened in the past,'' said Wood.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia is high on Wood and quickly came to his defense when the notion arose the he hadn't produced at the major-league level. Wood has 224 official at-bats over parts of three seasons with the big club and a .192 batting average.
``What's he had, 150 at-bats?'' Scioscia asked. ``He's had 150 at-bats and they're not condensed.''
Over six minor-league seasons, Wood has 160 homers, including 43 with Single-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2005. He's averaged more than 25 homers over his past three seasons at Salt Lake, including 28 last season.
Wood's main competition for the job will be utility man Maicer Izturis, a .300 hitter with a .359 on-base percentage with the Angels last season over 437 plate appearances and a very strong defensive player.
Scioscia is also high on Izturis.
``We do feel that Izzy is capable of being a 500 plate appearance guy,'' said Scioscia.
But Scioscia said Wood's primary competition this spring is himself.
``Brandon's challenge isn't really to worry about if there is someone (looking) over his shoulder or if the job is given to him or not given to him,'' he said. ``That's not Brandon's challenge. Brandon's challenge is his own game, to bring his game onto the field.
``We're real comfortable that he's going to do the things we've seen him do in the minor leagues.''
But the time to produce is now.
``I think all of us that have gone through it know the downside of non-production,'' Scioscia said. ``It's obviously less playing time. Every young player has to have a sense of urgency to apply himself and to get after it and know that it's his window and you want to make the most of it.''
Wood said he isn't taking things any differently, at least mentally.
``I came in here the past two years trying to make the team, whether it was possible or not,'' Wood said. ``My work was based off trying to make a team.
``There's less pressure knowing that I'm not going back to Triple-A. On the business side of it, I'm out of options so I can't go back to Salt Lake City, but there's the pressure of trying to get an everyday job and I'm aware of that and excited to approach it.''
It's not easy becoming an Angels regular. A high-spending, successful and winning franchise, top players are all over the diamond.
Wood realizes he might have had more at-bats by now with another organization.
``I said this before I even had my first big league at-bat and I've always meant it, I'd rather take my chances with the Angels and spend another year or two in the minor leagues and have a chance to win every day than being up in the big leagues in '07,'' Wood said.
``I wouldn't trade two years big-league time to be with another team that's not going to compete,'' Wood said. ``My locker is next to Torii Hunter, one of the best center fielders who's ever played the game and the guy can absolutely hit. And I don't think there's ever been a more patient hitter and better hitter in the game than Bobby Abreu and I get to sit in between them and pick their brain on what I need to do or what they do to be successful.
``It's just like being a little kid in a candy store being a young baseball player.''