RC Interview with Blake Wood

A back injury sidelined Blake Wood for the first half of the 2007 season, but he took full advantage of his rehab, refining his mechanics and emerging from the ordeal as a better pitcher. Over the weekend, he was promoted to Wilmington, where he'll join the Blue Rocks in time for the Carolina League playoffs. RC spoke with Wood about his injury, his offspeed pitches, and his new mechanics.

Royals Corner: Blake, I understand you've been promoted to Wilmington. Are you excited to be going to the playoffs?

Blake Wood: Yup, I'm heading to Wilmington. I just found out today. That just said that I can go out and throw my side and go ahead and leave. I'm going to pack everything up and get out of here. It's always good to be playing for something. It's the last series of the year here, but getting the opportunity to go up there and help them try to win a championship, I'm definitely excited about it.

RC: You had a pretty good game on Friday night, how'd you feel about it?

BW: I felt pretty happy about it. Coming off the start before, obviously I knew that I wasn't going to get the same results (eight no-hit innings), but all you can concentrate on is making as many good pitches as possible. I felt like I made enough to get the job done. I was pretty pleased with it. It was probably the most consistent my offspeed stuff has been this year, so I'm happy with the way things are progressing right now.

RC: Speaking of your previous start, what was that like throwing eight no-hit innings?

BW: It was awesome. I'd never really done that, except for little league, where I had a no hitter. That was like the last one I had. I never had one in high school or anything, so it was pretty cool. Especially because now, being in pro ball, you don't really get an opportunity to do that very often anymore. It was a good feeling.

Wood threw eight no-hit innings in his previous start

RC: Were you begging the manager to let you come out for the ninth?

BW: It's his decision. I know the Royals have the strict rules with the pitch counts and everything, so I actually thought I was going to come out after the seventh, because I was already past my pitch count, and I figured that if they sent me out for the eighth, they might send me back out for the ninth, as long as I didn't give up a hit. But they took me out, and I didn't really have anything to say about it. We still had the lead, so I figured our pen would get it done, but that's just part of the game. But I was still pleased with the outing overall.

RC: You mentioned that your offspeed pitches were consistent in your last outing. I noticed that you didn't really seem to start throwing any breaking balls until around the third inning. Is that something you planned?

BW: I've actually been doing that the last couple of outings. My game plan is really to just establish the fastball. I go fastball away for the most part, and I figure if I throw quality strikes with that, most of the time the hitters are going to get themselves out. I don't want to extend all the at bats long and try to strike people out. If that happens, then it happens, but I just try to get them out with three pitches or less just using my fastball. And if it gets to the point where I've got two strikes or I see a guy look really bad on a breaking ball, then I might start going to it more.

RC: Your breaking ball looked really sharp. Were you throwing a slider, or is it just a hard curve?

BW: It's just a hard curveball. I guess you can call it a slurve. I call it a curveball, and I actually try to throw it harder than my fastball. Obviously that's not possible, but as far as arm speed goes, I just try and make sure I get on top of it and throw it hard.

Between Arizona and Burlington, Wood this season is 2-1 with a 2.38 ERA in 45.1 innings pitched

RC: Let's talk about your changeup, which also looked pretty good. Has it been like that all year for you?

BW: No. Previously, I'd say in my sophomore year in college, it was pretty much my go-to offspeed pitch. A changeup is such a feel pitch. It kind of comes and goes just depending on the day. The more you throw it, the better it's going to be. In Arizona, right when I started throwing again, I really started throwing it a lot. But once I got out here, the first couple of outings, I wasn't really throwing it very much. So when I did throw it, it wasn't very good. Sometimes it would be good, sometimes it would just be up and away. But lately, I'm really starting to get a good feel for it, and it's been improving over the past three or four outings. I'm definitely happy with how it's progressing.

RC: What pitch would you say has progressed the most for you this year.

BW: It's hard to say really. I'd actually just say my fastball command. That's the main thing you focus on as a pitcher. Even if your offspeed stuff isn't working, if you have the fastball command, you can get hitters out.

RC: Talk a little bit about your injury and your recovery from that.

BW: It was tough. It was the worst three months of my life. It kind of bothered me a little bit last year, but it was hurting down the side of my leg. I felt a little bit of pain in my leg, and when you feel pain in your leg, you don't normally think that it's tied to something in your back. And so I figured after last season, I'd just go home, take a month off or whatever, and be better. But when I started lifting again, it got a little worse, and then one day I was squatting, and it just started hurting terribly in my back. For about the next two weeks, it kind of got a little worse and a little worse, and then one day I just woke up and I couldn't move for about two days. I was just bedridden. I had to be fed in bed, and I didn't even get out of bed, and for about the next month I pretty much just laid in bed on my stomach.

Eventually I went to the doctor, and found out that it was herniated, and pretty much the only way I was going to recover was surgery. So I got that done, and I've just kind of been recovering ever since. It's really amazing that it could hurt so bad and then all of a sudden, with the surgery, I could feel so much better. I felt better six hours after surgery than I did in three months, so it was pretty cool.

Wood spent three months rehabbing in Arizona, where he also refined his mechanics

RC: While you were in Arizona, I understand that you were also working on some things with your mechanics. What were some specific changes you made?

BW: Yeah. The main thing with me was that I was really far across my body, and it was causing me to fly open and leave balls up in the zone and not get the life. The velocity was the same, but if you're not getting the extension that you could, and the life, then guys are going to see it better and probably hit you better. So that was the main thing. Just trying to step as straight as possible, and that was getting me more directional toward the plate, and so I was getting a little better life on my ball, and obviously better command. So I think the injury might have been a blessing in disguise, because I got an opportunity to work on things during the season that you don't really get to address as much.

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