SCOTTSDALE — There are plenty of reasons for excitement around Alex Wood, his health the first and foremost.
But a very-much analytically minded pitcher paired with a team that has gained a reputation for maximizing, largely through advanced data, pitchers’ potential is a marriage that has real, well, potential.
“I felt like I really found my throw last year, and I just kind of took that into the offseason and really tried to build on it,” said Wood, who missed some of last season with shoulder inflammation then returned as a bullpen weapon. “Then came into spring and we discussed something about my posture — about raising my posture just a touch to help with the depth of my slider — and my slider has been really great all spring so far, and I felt like I threw some good ones today.”
He only threw 10 pitches in total, but they produced three outs in a nice start to his spring season during the Giants’ 3-1, seven-inning win over the White Sox at Scottsdale Stadium on Thursday.
Wood’s fastball touched 92 mph — on his final pitch, which struck out Jose Abreu — and he was around the plate with that fastball and slider. He allowed a hot shot from Chicago’s Tim Anderson, but it went right to third baseman Jason Vosler.
He did it with fastballs and sliders and stayed away from a pitch that’s been one of the talks of the camp. Wood’s changeup, which broke 4 percent vertically better than an average pitcher’s changeup last year, has been tweaked, and he has said it’s getting more horizontal movement.
“I played with my changeup throughout the course of the offseason. I’m still playing with it a little bit now, and I feel good with it,” said Wood, who said he should re-debut the pitch in his next outing and is working on locating it. “… Still a little bit of a work in progress as far as the feel with it in the game.”
Gabe Kapler called it a “professional, efficient inning.” It’s just a taste, but if Wood, who was a 2017 All-Star, can regain his health and form, there is a pretty high ceiling.
Especially with a pitcher who talks about axes and inches of movement and whether a pitch is “elite” analytically. A big part of the reason the 30-year-old lefty chose the Giants was the organization’s commitment to teaching and being on the cutting-edge. He got his World Series ring with the Dodgers last year. He now has a clearer rotation spot — also a reason for him to leave Los Angeles — with a team he believes can maximize his stuff.
“I’ve learned a ton already so far from Banny [Andrew Bannister], from [Andrew] Bailey, from J.P. [Martinez],” Wood said of the director of pitching, pitching coach and assistant pitching coach, respectively. “It has been an absolute blast getting to talk shop with those guys every single day.”
And a catcher who can help maximize his stuff. Buster Posey had caught him in the bullpen prior to Thursday and noted how different his slider looks when crouching from when he’s in a batting stance.
It’s just three batters, but the two can build from here.
“Buster is a really smart guy. He’s caught a lot of really talented guys over the years, and just to get out there today and start to get a rapport with him and him to learn me… that was great,” Wood said over Zoom.