Alex Wood threw live batting practice off the mound at Great American Ball Park on Tuesday as a number of the Cincinnati Reds players, including Joey Votto and Eugenio Suarez, watched from behind the batting cage. Wood even wore a full uniform to make the session as real as possible.
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Wood’s teammates aren’t the only ones who can’t wait to see him pitch. The entire fan base has waited to see the final piece of the blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Dodgers debut in 2019. Wood has been on the injured list all season with a lower back strain.
“I threw 21 pitches,” Wood said. “I faced three of our guys. I threw my normal warm-ups in the bullpen. It went great. The command wasn’t exactly where I wanted it, but overall it was pretty good. I was happy with it.”
Reds manager David Bell called it a great step and said Wood will throw another live batting practice session Saturday.
“If all goes well there, we’ll take the next big step,” Bell said. “He’s getting excited. You can tell he’s getting close because of the competitive juices, just the things he’s said in the clubhouse, things he’s said to me. I know he’s anxious. That’s a great sign. That will help him get over the hump and get back to us as quick as possible. He’s doing everything he can. No need to push it too hard now because he’s so close.”
Wood made one start in spring training Feb. 25 but then was scratched from his next start because of back pain. He suffered a setback in March, and the Reds announced then he would start the season on the injured list. Bell expected him back in mid-April at that point.
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However, progress for Wood slowed in April and May. He began a throwing program at the spring training complex in Goodyear, Ariz., in late May.
“It’s been pretty frustrating,” Wood said. “You come to a new place, and you know some of the guys. You’ve played against a lot of the guys over the years. Anytime you’re the new face in the clubhouse, you want to come in and try to have an impact and become friends with the guys. They already know what you can do, but there’s something about getting started with that team and proving and showing you’re here to win games and help this team accomplish everything they want to accomplish. So not being able to do that out of the gate has definitely taken a toll mentally. Those days are a little behind me. I’m looking forward to getting back out there and being able to contribute.”
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