When the Cincinnati Reds decided the 2019 season was the time to stop rebuilding and start winning, the starting rotation needed an upgrade.
The Reds acquired a trio of pitchers — Tanner Roark, Sonny Gray and Alex Wood — they expect to pencil into the rotation.
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Wood, a left-hander, brings a history of success with a winning team to the Reds from the Los Angeles Dodgers. The 28-year-old University of Georgia grad joined the Reds with Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig in exchange for Homer Bailey, Josiah Gray and Jeter Downs.
“He is very driven,” Reds manager David Bell said. “It is no surprise that he’s had the success that he’s had.”
Wood started a game in the World Series against the Houston Astros. Bell thinks the Reds can benefit from Wood’s postseason experience.
“When you’re around him you can tell he’s a great teammate and has a desire to win,” Bell said. ”He’s had great experiences so far he’s been on winning teams. That’s something you can’t teach. He knows what it takes to win. Winning becomes an expectation. It is important to talk about those expectations but there’s no replacement for having that type of success. It becomes addictive almost.”
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Wood, Roark and Gray and holdovers Luis Castillo and Anthony DeSclafani likely will make up the Reds’ rotation. Woods likes what he sees. In addition to an improved rotation, the bullpen remains a strength and a potent offense figures to be boosted by Puig and Kemp.
“We have a great opportunity. We have a good group of guys,” Wood said. “Hopefully we can bring some experience and life to the rotation. They had a good bullpen and great offense. I think we can come in and tie this team together.”
Wood’s best season came in 2017 when he went 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA. He was was ninth in the Cy Young voting and a National League All-Star.
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Wood slipped to 9-7 with a 3.68 ERA last season. He spent time on the disabled list with tendinitis and made his last six appearances out of the bullpen. Still, his his .714 winning percentage over the last two seasons (25-10) ranks sixth in the Major Leagues among the 72 pitchers with 50 or more starts. Even with the time on the DL, Wood has pitched more than 300 innings the last two seasons, an important quality to a Reds team that has suffered with short starts from its rotation.
“I am excited for the opportunity,” Wood said. “One of the biggest things that I’m excited about is the Cincinnati Reds are trying to win. That’s more than you can say for a lot of teams across the leagues. I feel really proud to go into this season with the Reds. I think we can do some damage and make some noise.”
Casali on the mend
Catcher Curt Casali had the labrum repaired in his left hip this offseason. He is progressing and Bell expects him to be ready by the start of the season. Casalli will not participate in the first few Cactus League games.
Alex Blandino, who had knee surgery to reconstruct his ACL from an injury on July 23, is borderline to be ready by opening day.
“He is taking ground balls but will be held out of games early in camp,” Bell said.
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