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Wood to stop using windup delivery this year

Working only from stretch, lefty throws first BP session at camp
Special to MLB.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Some of the details are a little hazy, like what city the Dodgers were in or who they were playing. But Alex Wood knows the epiphany he had one day last September.

"What idiot created the windup and the stretch?" Wood said.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Some of the details are a little hazy, like what city the Dodgers were in or who they were playing. But Alex Wood knows the epiphany he had one day last September.

"What idiot created the windup and the stretch?" Wood said.

"I was just sitting in the dugout ... sitting with Brandon McCarthy, and I looked at him: 'It doesn't make any sense. What is the benefit of it? There is no benefit.'"

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Those thoughts stuck with Wood the rest of the year and into his preparation for the upcoming season. He noticed the consistency Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg had last year when the right-hander worked solely from the stretch position. He noticed short-term teammate Yu Darvish do the same.

"You don't see a right-handed hitter with two different swings when guys are on base or aren't," Wood said. "I went back and forth with it all offseason. It's hard enough to, over the course of 150-200 innings and into the postseason, it's hard to stay consistent enough going through one set of mechanics, much less having to do two. That was my main reasoning behind it."

Wood has worked exclusively out of the stretch this spring, including during a live batting practice session Wednesday, and has every intention of taking it into the regular season.

"I probably won't throw a pitch out of the windup all year," he said.

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Such a move is not a dramatic change. But it's not as if Wood is coming off of a forgettable season. Quite the opposite.

The 27-year-old left-hander had a 2.72 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 151 strikeouts in 152 1/3 innings. He earned his first trip to the All-Star Game and finished ninth in National League Cy Young balloting.

"You have to evolve," he said. "Adapt or die. You can always do better.

"It makes too much sense. I tip-toed around it. But once I got into my dry work and the work I do in the offseason, I decided I'm just going to go for it."

While he still posted numbers countless pitchers across the Majors would take in a heartbeat, Wood's ERA climbed from 1.67 before the All-Star break to 3.89 after. Likewise, his batting average against was .174 before the break and .262 after.

"The velocity declined a little bit. And there was a little bit with [his] mechanics," manager Dave Roberts said.

Ridding himself of the windup should help with the latter.

"The guys that last a long time are consistent in their mechanics," said Wood, who figures to slot in third in the Dodgers' rotation behind Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill. "Having a solid base of one thing that you're doing on a consistent basis every single day makes it so that the adjustment you have to make if you get in a little funk midseason will potentially be smaller."

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There is a bit of irony in Wood ditching the windup, like all relievers do, a year after he was vocal in his displeasure at starting the season in the Dodgers' bullpen.

His time there lasted just two games, and Roberts on Wednesday was asked if Wood had earned the right to tell the organization, "I told you so."

"Yeah, he can; he can. And I think that's a good thing," Roberts said. "Obviously, he was disappointed he didn't get a chance to break camp as a starter for us. But to his credit, buying into pitching out of the 'pen and to be effective and to dominate is what he did.

"And when he got the opportunity [to start], he took advantage of it. I'm not opposed to guys telling us, 'I told you so.' That's a good thing."

Chris Thomas is a contributor to MLB.com.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Alex Wood