Mariners' Woo finishing 2022 on a high note

November 3rd, 2022

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Bryan Woo thinks he might have a slight leg up on some of the Arizona Fall League hitters he’s faced in recent weeks. After undergoing Tommy John surgery while at Cal Poly last year, the 2021 sixth-rounder didn’t return to a competitive mound until June 6 and then managed only 57 innings during the regular season across three different Minor League levels.

“I feel like I'm in midseason right now as opposed to guys towards the end of their seasons,” he said. “A lot of good life still, good energy and just trying to finish strong.”

He certainly made it look like it was July on Wednesday.

The Mariners’ No. 15 prospect struck out five and allowed one hit and two walks over three scoreless innings as the Peoria starter in the Javelinas’ 7-1 win over Salt River at Peoria Stadium. The performance dropped Woo’s ERA to 0.84, third-best among qualified Fall League pitchers behind only Orlando Ribalta and Joey Wentz (both at 0.00). He’s now fanned 16 batters and held them to a .122 average over five starts (10 2/3 innings).

The 22-year-old right-hander threw 57 pitches (his new AFL high), 36 of which landed for strikes and six of which resulted in whiffs. Five of those six swings-and-misses came on his fastball that sat 94-96 mph for much of Wednesday afternoon and topped out at 97.

Velocity hasn’t been much of a concern for Woo as he’s gained experienced throughout the summer and fall, and it’s been a big driver of his success during his stay in the desert.

“I’d probably say [it came back] at the end of rehab,” he sad. “The ball had good life. I felt like I wasn't trying to do too much. Just try to be smooth and let my body and the mechanics do the work. I feel like if I muscle up and try to throw harder, it doesn't really come out as well. It's still a process.”

Woo is still getting command of his pitches under his belt as he gains experience post-surgery too. He didn’t last longer than two innings in any of his previous three starts for the Javelinas after bumping into pitch limits and had to work around two separate inning-opening walks to Salt River leadoff hitter Zac Veen in the first and third. He did escape both jams, ending the third frame in particular with a 94 mph swinging strikeout against D-backs right-handed hitter Camden Duzenack, but they clouded Woo’s view of his performance, both Wednesday and the fall in general.

“It's been pretty good,” he said. “I’m honestly not super happy with the process of how I’m throwing, like getting ahead of guys early, putting away guys late, not fooling around and throwing extra pitches that I don't need to throw. I’m always trying to work on little things, but overall, it's been a really good experience.”

Woo did give himself credit for landing his upper-80s changeup where he wanted Wednesday, and his mid-80s slider gave Salt River hitters another look.

With likely one more Peoria start remaining for him before the Fall League ends next week, the Seattle hurler has his own clear instructions for work between outings.

“I still didn't really do a great job of getting first-pitch strikes and winning those counts,” Woo said. “So just trying to get ahead early, put pressure on guys right away, be a little bit more efficient, and not throw so many pitches that I really don't need to waste.”

No. 8 Mariners prospect Adam Macko also tossed three innings for Peoria, giving up one earned run on one hit and two walks in relief of Woo.

Veen, the Rockies’ top prospect, walked three times and picked up a ninth-inning double in the loss. He added two steals, driving his AFL-leading total to 16 in 18 attempts. He has the most Fall League thefts since Junior Lake swiped 18 bags in 2011.