Sam LeCure became a fan favorite in Cincinnati in spite of role the thrives in anonymity.
Middle relief pitchers are like offensive lineman, the only time they get noticed is when the quarterback gets sacked. They can save the team in “high leverage” situations which used to be known a jams. They can keep a team in the game when they are behind. They can prevent a team from closing the gap when the team is ahead.
They don’t get the fame or the paycheck that comes with it. They are the roster spot that teams use to save money. Yet any winning team has one or two guys that are essential to winning in that role.
The Reds have Blake Wood.
It isn’t compliceated for the formet third tound draft pick of the Kansas City Royals in 2006 out of Georgia Tech University.
“I’m just a guy who is going out there and try to get outs,” Wood said. “I don’t think anybody in the bullpen has a role that they are necessarily locked into. To see the way Bryan is using guys different than convention you might say. It keeps everybody ready to go. We can be in there at any time. Whether its the third inning of the ninth, I’ll be ready to go and do my job.”
Wood made 51 appearances in 2010 and 55 in 2011 for the Royals and had one save. He had “Tommy John” surgery and missed all of 2012. He was picked up on waivers by the Indinas and got into nine big league games in 2013 and 2014. Pittsburgh signed Wood to a minor league contract in 2015. He spent the entire season at Indianapolis where he was an International League All-Star as a closer and saved a league-high 29 games.
The Reds in search of a closer signe Wood to a minor league contract for the 2016 season on a recommendation from the Reds’ Triple A manager Delino DeShields.
Wood didn’t win the closer’s job that opened after Aroldis Chapman was traded to the New York Yankees. The Reds chose J.J. Hoover instead after Wood was hit hard in spring training.. Wood was 6-5 with one save in 70 games. Wood has come five games so far pitched 4 2/3 innings, allowing one run on five hits. He pitched two scoreless innings against St. Louis and a pair of one batter, scoreless performances in Pittsburgh.
“He is Mr. Everything,” Price said. “Dusty had a term for it that he used with Sam LeCure that I can’t think of off the top of my head. He can make a spot start, he can come in the middle or late in the game. Woody is a guy that gets lefties and righties out. He has really, really good stuff. He’s durable enough to throw two or two plus innings. Whether coming in the middle of the game or late in the game, I never see a demeanor change.”
Last season Wood inherited bases loaded situations three times and stranded all nine base runners. It is a job that is under appreciated in the baseball marketplace.
“The market is going to determine how much money you’re worth,” Wood said. “As a middle reliever, you’re trying to get to a spot where you’re used in high leverage situations. That’s what every body wants to do, get put in close games, more often and obviously perform. There are a lot of factors to determine them, whether you’re on a winning or losing team, more so than like a starting pitcher or a guy who is going to play every day. It will be interesting to see how the market changes with the way bullpens are being used now. Guys are used more in multiple innings. You’re not going to see as many saves or holds which traditionally what pays people in arbitration especially.”
Wood likes being used in multiple roles.
“I like that. It’s kind of like the utility guy on the bench. I’m like the utility guy in the bullpen,” Wood said. “They can put me anywhere. Hopefully, they feel comfortable putting me in any situation. I enjoy coming in with guys on base and trying to get out of it. It definitely pumps me up. Those three times I came in with bases loaded. I love that.”