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Wood flashes electric stuff in first start of '19

@m_sheldon
July 28, 2019

CINCINNATI -- Alex Wood has been a member of the Reds since Dec. 21, 2018, when he came over from the Dodgers in a seven-player trade. But until Sunday vs. the Rockies, Wood hadn’t pitched for Cincinnati because of lower back spasms and subsequent setbacks. That he had yet to

CINCINNATI -- Alex Wood has been a member of the Reds since Dec. 21, 2018, when he came over from the Dodgers in a seven-player trade. But until Sunday vs. the Rockies, Wood hadn’t pitched for Cincinnati because of lower back spasms and subsequent setbacks.

That he had yet to contribute weighed on Wood, right up through Sunday morning. Once he actually debuted, he pitched well for 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision as Cincinnati came away with a 3-2 victory and on top in two of three games in the series at Great American Ball Park

Box score

“Any time you go that long [without playing], you question yourself,” Wood said. “I stayed up last night thinking about everything. As soon as you step foot on the field, you start warming up, throw that first pitch off the mound, you know, everything kind of goes away, like I’ve still got it a little bit, you know what I mean?”

Wood finished with two earned runs and seven hits allowed, while he walked one and struck out four. He kept Colorado scoreless through his first four innings and navigated out of danger repeatedly. The Rockies were 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position when Yonder Alonso stepped up with two outs in the fifth.

On a 1-0 pitch from Wood, his 80th of the game, Alonso hit a game-tying two-run homer to right-center field.

“Just made one stupid pitch that I shouldn’t have made there at the end,” Wood said. “It just wasn’t the right pitch in that situation. I should’ve challenged him more with my fastball, and then the breaking ball.”

Manager David Bell emerged from the dugout and lifted the left-hander in favor of right-hander Lucas Sims. Bell noted that he and Wood locked eyes as he first stepped onto the field.

No matter what resulted, Alonso was going to be Wood’s last hitter.

“He really wanted to stay in the game,” Bell said. “I wanted to get out there and hear what he said. But I was convinced, only because it was his first time out. I needed to stick with what I felt was the right decision for today. During the conversation, I told him he will for sure get this opportunity and much more. But today wasn’t the right day.”

Sunday’s win put the fourth-place Reds (48-55) seven games back behind the first-place tie of the Cardinals and Cubs in the National League Central and three games ahead of the Pirates as they arrive for a three-game series Monday.

The Reds are in a complicated spot. They have faded from contention in the division and NL Wild Card, but aren’t out of it completely. This could make them both buyers and sellers ahead of Wednesday’s Trade Deadline.

“Everyone's talking about the Trade Deadline and acquisitions and things like that. We kind of made an acquisition today, getting Alex back,” said Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart, who notched three hits, including an RBI single in the sixth inning that snapped the 2-2 tie. “The guy pitched in the World Series and pitched on arguably the best team in baseball last year. That's a pretty damn good acquisition for us as a staff.”

When Wood was acquired, the Reds knew that he and right fielder Yasiel Puig were eligible to become free agents after this season. That made them obvious trade chips, along with fellow pending free agents, starter Tanner Roark and second baseman Scooter Gennett.

The Trade Deadline is at 4 p.m. ET on Wednesday. And this year, under a new rule, there are no waiver trades allowed in August. Several scouts were on hand Sunday with radar guns and charts, no doubt seeing what Wood might have.

“The first time that it happened, when I got traded from Atlanta to L.A. [in 2015], I was devastated. I was totally blindsided, didn’t see it coming,” Wood said. “Obviously, this offseason, I knew there was some speculation, some rumors that I could get traded. But right now, I haven’t even thought about that, man. I’m just ecstatic to be back and contributing now. That’s an afterthought for me. Obviously, I hope that doesn’t happen.”

Should Wood remain, he brings a very different look to a Reds rotation that’s already ranked third in ERA among NL clubs. It’s not only because he’s now its lone lefty.

Wood is not a power pitcher that overwhelms with velocity. His fastball sits in the low-90s, while he relies heavily on a curveball and changeup. The curveball was used a game-high 32 times, according to Statcast, and garnered 25 strikes.

“He's funky. It's hard to see,” Barnhart said. “You've got elbows and knees and arms and shoulders coming at you … He's just deceptive. I think his 90, 91 plays harder to hitters. He gets on them a little more because it's tough to see. I'm looking forward to catching him next time out.”

Overall, Wood was very pleased with his results.

“It was nice to finally get back out there and contributing to this team,” he said. “It’s been a lot of fun to watch these guys throughout the year. It was always tough not being truly a part of it. I felt great. It was a good first one. Now that’s done, and we just move forward.”

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.