Post-surgery, Wood can still bring the heat
CLEVELAND -- Count Indians reliever Blake Wood among the increasing number of Tommy John surgery success stories. During Wood's brief outing against the Royals on Tuesday night, one look at the Progressive Field radar gun was all one needed to know he is fully recovered.
Wood's first pitch of the ninth inning was a 100-mph fastball to Kansas City's Billy Butler and the hard-throwing right-hander did not let up. Only two of the dozen heaters fired at his former team registered under 98 mph in Wood's three-batter appearance.
"You feel stronger," Wood said, "because you've had more time than you've ever had to work out, get stronger and work on the stuff you wanted to work on that you didn't have time to do during the season, to feel right mechanically. It's that, plus the new ligament."
Wood and Indians starter Danny Salazar -- both with Tommy John ligament-replacement surgery on their resumes -- have reached triple digits on the radar gun this year. A few lockers away from Wood in the Indians' locker room, fellow Tommy John-recipient Josh Tomlin laughed.
"I got the same ligament he got," Tomlin said of Wood. "Same one as Salazar, too. Why am I still throwing 88?"
According to brooksbaseball.net, which compiles PITCHf/x data from every Major League game, Wood's 99.43-mph average on Tuesday night was the second-highest velocity average he has posted in a game since Aug. 29, 2011. Across the 2010-11 campaigns with Kansas City, the 28-year-old Wood averaged 95.5 mph with his fastball.
Wood, who underwent surgery on his elbow in May last year, fully understands that pitch speed is not the only important element on the mound. In 26 1/3 Minor League innings this season, Wood issued 18 walks between stints with four Cleveland affiliates. Through two relief outings for the Indians, the right-hander has three walks and one strikeout.
"You want to get physically where you want to be first, get your stuff back," Wood said. "And then you can work from there. Right now, I feel like, 'All right, my stuff is where I want it to be.' Now I need to start doing other things better, like controlling the running game, working on command. That's going to happen with getting to pitch more."
In 2011, Wood appeared in 55 games for the Royals, posting a 3.75 ERA with 62 strikeouts and 32 walks in 69 2/3 innings. Kansas City exposed him to waivers over the winter, and Cleveland claimed the sidelined reliever on Nov. 2, giving him a chance to continue his recovery with a new team this season.
"I couldn't be more thankful to an organization," Wood said. "At that point, I was five months out of surgery and I was just hoping to get a chance somewhere. It was a lot of hoping, not thinking that it was going to happen. I'm glad they did. I'm hoping they're glad they took a chance on me, because I'm certainly very thankful that they did."