Wood's roster bid gets off to strong start
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Brandon Wood once hit 43 home runs in a Minor League season and was considered a hot prospect in the Angels organization. That promise was never quite fulfilled.
Wood, though, is still pursuing the dream 10 years after the Angels made him a first-round Draft choice out of Horizon High School in nearby Scottsdale.
He showed his power on Saturday, belting a two-run homer that gave the Royals a 4-2 walk-off victory over the Rangers in the second Cactus League game at Surprise Stadium. With a runner at first base, Wood teased the crowd with a long drive that landed just foul down the left-field line. Then, on a 2-2 pitch from right-hander Jake Brigham, he put a drive into the left-field bullpen.
Wood had gone hitless in three previous at-bats in the first two games. He struck out in his first chance on Saturday.
"The swing feels good. Batting practice feels good. It's just a matter of getting timing in the game," he said.
When Wood rounded first base, he noticed the ball on the outfield grass -- causing a moment of uncertainty -- but it had ricocheted off the back bullpen wall and found its way back to the playing field.
"I thought I hit it good, but I saw it on the field so I didn't want to be the guy to be jogging around the bases when it was a double. So I took a stutter-step, but it was a homer," Wood said.
Either way, the game was over because Anthony Seratelli already had scored from second base.
Wood's 43 home runs came as a shortstop with Class A Rancho Cucamonga in 2005, the same season he had 51 doubles, 115 RBIs and a .321 average. He kept piling up homers, doubles and RBIs through Double-A and Triple-A but never could catch fire in the Majors.
In parts of five seasons with Los Angeles, he hit .168 with 11 homers, 33 RBIs in 173 games. Finally, Pittsburgh claimed him off waivers in 2011, but he had little success in 99 games with the Pirates. He was in Triple-A with Colorado last year and signed with the Royals in November.
"He's come in here, he's worked hard and we'll see where he fits," manager Ned Yost said. "We brought him in for depth, because he's versatile, we think that he can play third and first and the outfield if needed. And we think he can swing the bat a little bit and today was proof of that. It was a great at-bat to win the ballgame for us.
"He was a highly rated prospect at one time, a kid that had like 47, 48 homers one year, and that type of production never really transitioned to the big leagues. But we still feel like there's something there and we wanted to give him the opportunity to come in and compete."
Wood, who'll turn 28 next Saturday, is a right-handed batter who stands 6-foot-3 at 205 pounds.
"I have a uniform on, and that's it," he said. "The good Lord gives me a chance to play the game, and it's a matter of just going out and trusting my abilities. It's no different from the first camp I went to when I was 20 and, obviously, if the goal's the same as it is for anybody -- to make the team."
In his memorable year with Rancho Cucamonga, plus four games with Triple-A Salt Lake, Wood became the first Minor Leaguer in history with 100 extra-base hits in a season. He had 101.
"The ability's still there but it just hasn't come together for me yet. But I believe in my heart that I can still play and produce in the big leagues," he said. "I'm with a great organization and the talent's there. It's just a matter of me putting it together and allowing it to happen."