ST. LOUIS — Being moved to the bullpen might change Alex Wood’s role – but not his confidence.
“I always believe when your stuff is where you want it to be, the results will come over the course of the season. I truly do believe that,” Wood said Friday, a day after being told by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts that he was being bumped from the rotation for the final two weeks of the season.
“I think there’s only a handful of guys that when they don’t feel good or they get into funks or they don’t feel their stuff isn’t where they want it, they can still go out and pitch and have success. I’m one of those people. There’s not an argument to be made. And this year with what I’ve had, not many people can do that. It’s not like I haven’t put up pretty good numbers this year. That part of it is hard for me, in some sense.”
Wood went 8-7 with a 3.65 ERA in 27 starts this season, leading the Dodgers in games started and innings pitched (148) because “I know how to pitch.” But he did it with diminished fastball velocity and much more effort needed to get through innings. His 1.21 WHIP is a big jump from last season (1.06) when he made the All-Star team at midseason and his strikeouts per nine innings (8.0) is the second-lowest of his career behind 2015 (6.6) when he pitched most of the second half with an ankle injury.
Wood acknowledges that the quality of his pitch mix this year was not “at the level it’s been at for most of my career.” But he offers no explanation for why that is.
“Every year is different. Every year is totally different,” the 27-year-old Wood said.
“It’s like if you’re a golfer and you just pipe one right down the middle and it feels so good. Never even felt it hit the club. That’s like throwing a baseball and you’re throwing a fastball down and away. You throw it and it feels so good and it goes right where you want it – I haven’t had that feeling that many times this year. … From that aspect, I’m pretty proud that I’ve had a pretty good year. I definitely think that what we’re looking at is my floor, which is a pretty high floor for a starting pitcher. But it’s something I’m pretty proud of.”
After going 16-3 with a 2.72 ERA and earning that All-Star selection last season, Wood made a pretty significant change. He pitched exclusively out of the stretch this season. Wood says he doesn’t regret making the change and doesn’t think it had anything to do with a dropoff in the quality of his pitches. But he will wait until the offseason to re-examine and decide if he will continue this way going forward.
“I feel I have pretty good knowledge of mechanics,” he said. “Part of the reason I went to the stretch this year was because I felt I would be able to make adjustments easier over the course of the year. I’ve found from trial and error that hasn’t totally been the case. It hasn’t been as easy to make adjustments as I thought.”
The adjustment to now pitching out of the bullpen is nothing new for Wood and he responded with a world-weary, “Nothing surprises me anymore” when asked his reaction to the news Thursday.
“That’s what they felt was the best move going forward with my experience in the bullpen and how we matchup over these last however many games,” Wood said. “It was the best recipe to get us to the postseason. There wasn’t a big argument or anything.
“If this were the middle of the year, there might be a different reaction. But at this point, we’ve got one goal in mind. This is the way they feel gives us the best chance going forward. It’s hard not to get on board with that as much as you might disagree with it.”
Relievers Tony Cingrani and John Axford were added to the roster of the Class-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes for Game 3 of their California League championship series Friday night and were expected to pitch an inning each.
For Axford, it will be his first game action since Aug. 12 at Coors Field when he was hit in the leg back by a comebacker and suffered a fracture to his right fibula.
Cingrani has been out much longer. He has not pitched in a game since June 6 due to shoulder problems.
“Our hope is to get these guys back,” Roberts said. “We’ll see how it goes.
“Obviously these guys want to get back and pitch in some meaningful games here with us. So to get some game action for Rancho, hopefully it goes well and we get them back, yeah.”
In Axford’s case, the one rehab appearance could be all he needs before rejoining the Dodgers, Roberts said. But Roberts acknowledged that Cingrani would need more work to convince the Dodgers his shoulder will hold up.
“We’ve got to see more from him,” Roberts said. “It would be more sim games, just making sure, because you’re talking about the shoulder and the stress. It’s a little bit more complex.”
Dodgers (LHP Rich Hill, 8-5, 3.88 ERA) at Cardinals (RHP John Gant, 7-5, 3.16 ERA), Saturday, 10:05 a.m., Fox/11
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