Officially, the Cincinnati Reds acquired Alex Wood from the Los Angeles Dodgers in a trade last December.
Unofficially, being forced by injury to delay his Cincinnati debut until Sunday makes the left-hander look more like a trade deadline pickup.
Wood doesn’t care. He’s just happy to finally be able to pitch after missing the entire season with lower back spasms.
Wood learned from manager David Bell on Wednesday that he would be starting Sunday’s 1:10 p.m. series finale against the Colorado Rockies.
“On Wednesday, David called me,” Wood said on Friday. “Before he could even ask me anything, I told him I felt good and I was ready to go. He said, ‘All right, you’re starting Sunday.’ I was ecstatic, man. I’m just ready to get this thing going.”
Wood’s back started bothering him in spring training. His road to being activated has been marked by speed bumps, but he once was able to get started on a rehab regimen, he gathered momentum. Over his four rehab assignment starts since July 6 – three for Triple-A Louisville and one for Double-A Chattanooga – Wood is 1-1 with a 3.18 ERA. He lasted six innings with one earned run, four hits, no walks and four strikeouts while throwing 85 pitches for Chattanooga in his fourth start on Monday.
Wood was supposed to get just five innings in that game, but he was still short of his pitch count and wanted one more. A call was placed to head trainer Steve Baumann with the Reds in Milwaukee and he gave the green light.
“They wanted me, when I came back, for them to be able to cut me loose and make normal starts, so we wouldn’t beat up the bullpen,” Wood, 28 said. “I felt good and threw pretty well in those six innings.”
“Just his progress and his health and the way he was pitching, the way he felt,” Bell said about activating Wood. “I think it’s where we are. We never want to rush anyone. They have to know they’re healthy and they can perform at this level. We’re not really at a point to delay that, either.”
The Reds hope he can provide a stretch-drive boost with the talent that has produced a 52-40 record and 3.29 earned-run average in 129 starts and 43 relief appearances for Atlanta Braves and the Dodgers.
“I’ve been around a little now, but you come to a new place and the guys respect you and they know what you’ve done in your career and the impact you can have, but that’s different than having that impact that year with that club,” Wood said. “It sucked really bad not being able to contribute up until this point. The whole time my goal has been to get healthy and be back as fast as possible in order to contribute to this ball club. We have a really good group of guys in the clubhouse, and I’m just excited to get started on Sunday.”
Wood is scheduled to be opposed by right-hander Peter Lambert (2-1).
Good soreness: Catcher Tucker Barnhart felt on Saturday like he always does after he’s played the previous day.
He savored the soreness.
Barnhart did not start on Saturday, one day after being activated from the injured list and making his first appearance since June 22. He’d been sidelined with a right oblique strain.
“I feel good,” he reported. “I feel like I caught a game yesterday. I’m happy with the way I’m feeling. I have no issues. I wasn’t holding anything back.”
Barnhart, 28, made just one rehab appearance before being activated.
“They totally left the ball in my court as to when I was ready to come back, and I told anybody who would listen that I was ready,” said the switch-hitter, the 2017 National League Gold Glove catcher.
Barnhart celebrated his return with two singles to center field in Cincinnati’s 12-2 loss to the Rockies on Friday. He’s hoping that’s further proof that he’s put behind him the injury that led to his first appearance on a major league injured list in his five-plus season career.
“I’m looking forward to not talking about it any more,” he said, good-naturedly.
Hernandez’s progress: Right-handed relief pitcher David Hernandez threw a bullpen session on Friday and will most likely throw at least one session of live batting practice before being activated, Bell said on Saturday.
Hernandez has been on the injured list since July 18 with right shoulder fatigue. He is eligible to be activated on Sunday.
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