Control has been an issue for Blake Wood for most of his career. In the past two seasons he has walked 49 batters combined in 68.2 innings. While the strikeout numbers have always been there, with 83 over the same stretch, the control makes him a non-option for many organizations as a contributor.
However, this season has been different. Wood has walked only four hitters, while still maintaining the strikeouts, with 23 in 15.1 innings pitched. The way that he has been able to do this is by getting ahead of hitters, and staying ahead.
“For the most part, my fastball command has been good,” Wood said. “I have been getting ahead of hitters and then I can do whatever I want. I can use the fastball or finish them off with an off speed.”
Wood has been hitting 95 to 97 on the gun with his fastball this season. The fastball velocity is nothing new, but the main reason for the success is simply finding the zone more often.
”I have always had good velocity,” Wood said. “That is kind of what has kept me around this long. Finding the command has been the difficult part for me, so I feel like that is coming together for me and it is showing up.”
Improving the control is not just as simple as waiting for improvements to show up. Wood said that the control improvements have come around due to work that he has done on his mechanics and getting to where he feels good.
“Mechanically, it is repeating my delivery and finding that comfort zone, where I am able to go out there and do it consistently,” Wood said. “I am just confident because I have those two things and the results are going to follow.”
Wood spoke the praises of Jim Benedict, as he is one of the latest in line of his reclamation projects.
“It started in the spring with Jim Benedict,” Wood said. “Obviously, he has done some great work with some of the guys here. He was able to break down my delivery and get me to a spot where I needed to be and he thought that I could be successful.”
Wood said that he looked to carry over that work with Benedict to Indianapolis, and the results have followed.
He also said that he was praising when the chips fell right for him to make his way to the Pirates. With the reputation that Benedict has around the league, Wood was hoping to have the opportunity to work with him.
“They were one of the teams that I was eyeing during the off-season,” Wood said. “I was lucky enough that they wanted me to be a part of their organization, and so far it has been a great fit.”
Teams are always in need of quality relievers, whether that is based on injuries or just guys wearing down. With the success that Wood has enjoyed and the stuff that he possesses, the results that he has earned are not a fluke. The Pirates have seen some struggles from their bullpen early in the season, and with John Holdzkom currently down with a shoulder injury, Wood could emerge as one of the top depth options out of Triple-A, ready to help the Pirates in the majors at some point this season.