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Wood: 'I’m excited to get started on Sunday'

Lefty sidelined since spring with lower back spasms set to face Rockies
@m_sheldon
July 26, 2019

CINCINNATI -- For Reds left-handed starter Alex Wood, Sunday will be his Opening Day of sorts. Wood, who has been on the injured list all season because of lower back spasms and setbacks during his rehab process, feels very ready to begin his Reds career in the series finale vs.

CINCINNATI -- For Reds left-handed starter Alex Wood, Sunday will be his Opening Day of sorts. Wood, who has been on the injured list all season because of lower back spasms and setbacks during his rehab process, feels very ready to begin his Reds career in the series finale vs. the Rockies at Great American Ball Park.

Cincinnati acquired Wood in December from the Dodgers, along with Yasiel Puig, Kyle Farmer and Matt Kemp, with hopes he would be a big part of its rotation.

“I’ve been around a little now, but you come to a new place and the guys respect you and they know what you’ve done in your career and the impact you can have, but that’s different than having that impact that year with that club,” Wood said on Friday afternoon, before the Reds’ 12-2 loss to the Rockies. “It sucked really bad not being able to contribute up until this point. The whole time my goal has been to get healthy and be back as fast as possible in order to contribute to this ball club. We have a really good group of guys in the clubhouse and I’m just excited to get started on Sunday.”

Wood will slot in between Anthony DeSclafani and Sonny Gray in the Cincinnati starting rotation.

Over his four rehab assignment starts since July 6 -- three for Triple-A Louisville and one for Double-A Chattanooga, Wood is 1-1 with a 3.18 ERA. He threw six innings with one earned run, four hits, no walks and four strikeouts while throwing 85 pitches for Chattanooga in his fourth start on Monday.

Wood was supposed to get just five innings, but he was still short of his pitch count and wanted one more. A call was placed to head trainer Steve Baumann with the Reds in Milwaukee and he gave the green light.

“They wanted me, when I came back, for them to be able to cut me loose and make normal starts, so we wouldn’t beat up the bullpen,” Wood said. “I felt good and threw pretty well in those six innings.”

Originally, Reds manager David Bell expected Wood to get a fifth rehab start. But Wood told Baumann he was ready to return to the big leagues now.

“Just his progress and his health and the way he was pitching, the way he felt. I think it's where we are, we never want to rush anyone,” Bell said. “They have to know they're healthy and they can perform at this level. We're not really at a point to delay that, either.”

It might not be coincidence that Wood is pitching ahead of the July 31 Trade Deadline. If he has a good showing, a lefty starter with postseason experience could bring value in potential deals.

In the previous turn for that spot in the Reds' rotation, Lucas Sims started in place of the injured Tyler Mahle. Sims will return to a bullpen role.

The 28-year-old Wood was 9-7 with a 3.68 ERA in 33 games (27 starts) for the Dodgers last season, striking out 135 batters in 151 2/3 innings. He was an All-Star in 2017 and has a 4.10 ERA in 16 postseason games, including two starts.

“On Wednesday, David called me. Before he could even ask me anything, I told him I felt good and I was ready to go,” Wood said. “He said, ‘All right, you’re starting Sunday.’ I was ecstatic, man. I’m just ready to get this thing going.”

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook.