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Wood takes 'good step' with first 'pen session

@m_sheldon
June 9, 2019

PHILADELPHIA -- Throwing 20 pitches Saturday during his first bullpen session since April wasn’t the only test Reds pitcher Alex Wood and his problematic back needed to pass. The second test came Sunday after Wood woke up. That one also appears to have brought the left-handed starter a passing grade.

PHILADELPHIA -- Throwing 20 pitches Saturday during his first bullpen session since April wasn’t the only test Reds pitcher Alex Wood and his problematic back needed to pass. The second test came Sunday after Wood woke up.

That one also appears to have brought the left-handed starter a passing grade.

“A big part of it was making sure I’m waking up the next day and feeling recovered,” Wood said. “The times before, when I kind of had a setback, deep down I kind of knew that day afterwards. But you never really know until the next day. I feel normal. I feel good. A good step in the right direction.”

Wood, acquired from the Dodgers in December’s seven-player trade that also brought Yasiel Puig and Kyle Farmer, hasn’t pitched in a game since Feb. 25, during Spring Training. Since then, he's dealt with ongoing lower back spasms.

There was a setback near the end of March and another near the end of April. After that, Wood was shut down from all throwing for a month, and he sought a second opinion that showed nothing else was wrong besides spasms and inflammation.

On Saturday, Wood used all of his pitches and didn’t have to hold anything back.

“It went great. It was a good first ‘pen,” he said. “Everything felt normal and felt good. I recovered well today. The next step is I will throw another ‘pen and go from there.”

Wood is hoping that a live batting practice against hitters is the step that follows the next step. At some point, without any more setbacks, he will need a rehab assignment. Reds manager David Bell did not commit to a timetable.

“I think it’s one step at a time still. I don’t know the exact number [of bullpen sessions] either,” Bell said.

Wood expects he will likely incorporate some of the back maintenance routine he learned during his rehab into preparing himself to pitch.

“There are definitely some things, like from a core stability exercise standpoint, that I imagine that, once I’m back, will be a pretty big part of my five-day routine just to keep everything all locked in, because we found some things that have definitely helped push me forward to feel normal and strong,” Wood said. “It’ll be on a much-lesser scale. I’ve done so much crap. It’s been nuts, but it’s been worth it, because I feel good finally.”

First time not starting for Senzel

After he was called up from Triple-A Louisville and debuted in the big leagues May 3, center fielder Nick Senzel started all 32 games since and played every inning. It was the longest streak of starts by any Reds player this season, and it ended Sunday when Bell rested the rookie. Jose Peraza started in center field, while left fielder Jesse Winker assumed Senzel’s normal spot as leadoff hitter.

Bell fond of Philadelphia

Bell played four seasons for the Phillies from 2003-06 and this weekend’s series marked his first time working as a manager at Citizens Bank Park. The home team showed its appreciation for him on Friday, when the scoreboard at Citizens Bank Park showed him hitting for the cycle against the Expos in 2004. Bell was the last Phillie to accomplish the feat.

“I have good memories of being here,” Bell said. “I was here for four years. Mostly, it’s just because of the people you meet and the relationships you build. There are really some great people here.”

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.