Reds choose first-round draft choice over Bryant’s Wood for fifth starter spot

GRAPEFRUIT, Ariz. — When Bryant's Travis Wood left home for his first Major League spring training with the Cincinnati Reds, he told, “I think I have an outside chance of getting in there (as the team's No. 5 starter). I don’t want to say I do, but I’m going in there with the mindset, thinking that I can. I’ll just put it all out there on the line and it’s up to them after that. I’m just going out and thinking the sky’s the limit. I’ll give it my all and put the choice in their hands. But don’t leave any doubt. Just go out there and do the best I can."

And he did just that.

In fact, it wasn't until Friday, April 2, just three days before the Reds opener that the team decided who would be in the rotation to start the season. Wood was among the six pitcher originally in contention. He was the last to be ruled out.[more]

On Friday, he was designated for assignment with the Louisville Bats, the Reds' AAA affiliate, as Mike Leake, the team's first-round pick out of Arizona State in the June 2009 draft, was given the nod as the fifth starter. Leake is the first player to make a Major League squad without pitching in the Minor Leagues since Xavier Nady in 2000 and the first pitcher to do so since Ariel Preito in 1995.

In his last outing of the spring on Wednesday against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Las Vegas, Wood picked up his first spring training victory despite what may have been his poorest outing of the spring. After retiring the first five batters he faced, but then he walked three batters to load the bases. Though he got out of that inning, the Dodgers would go on to score three runs on five hits over the next three frames. 

Get more about that start here:

The story about the decision included this:

"Wood, 23, had more experience than Leake as he rose up to Triple-A Louisville last season. His numbers were similar in his six games with a 1-1 record and 3.50 ERA and 17 strikeouts. But he also had 12 walks and didn't fare as well over his final two outings. The Reds optioned him to Louisville.

"'We thought Wood needs to work on his command some more," Baker said. "He needs to tighten up his breaking ball. He's very, very close.'"

In his blog, Reds beat writer Mark Sheldon reported: "Travis Wood learned first (of the Reds' decision) and returned to the clubhouse and started packing his stuff. About five minutes later, Leake walked back from his meeting (with manager Dusty Baker and general manager Walt Jockety) trying to contain his smile. He and Wood bumped fists."

Chances are, Wood will get his chance at the Major League level at some point this season whether it's due to injury on the staff or with the expansion of rosters in September. 

Travis, who was the AA Pitcher of the Year last summer for the Carolina Mudcats, finished the 2009 season at Louisville. Despite only appearing in eight games with the Bats, Wood was tabbed as the team's first starter in the International League playoffs.

The fifth starter spot was up for grabs this spring because of the Reds' loss of returning starter Edison Volquez who was placed on the 60-day disabled list after struggling with injuries last season. In 2008, Volquez was 17-6 for Cincy. He's recovering from "Tommy John" surgery which will probably keep him out until at least August.

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