Wood relishing chance to earn spot with Reds

30-year-old righty has not appeared in big leagues since '14

Wood relishing chance to earn spot with Reds

GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Seeking to revitalize his career after Tommy John surgery and a couple of rough seasons, Blake Wood entered the offseason looking for a chance to crack a Major League roster -- a chance he found in Cincinnati.

"I felt like there was a good opportunity here for me to reestablish myself," Wood said of his one-year deal with the Reds.

While Wood, 30, was attracted to the Reds' young roster, citing similarities to when he was coming up with the Royals in 2010 and '11, the Reds were attracted to his experience and his high-90s fastball.

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"What we like about him is he has experience in the big leagues," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "He has some experience closing in Triple-A. He's got over three years of Major League experience and he's got a big arm. It's a big power arm, 95 to 98, with a good slider and split."

The right-hander appeared in 51 games with the Royals in 2010 and another 55 in '11.

However, things got derailed from there.

After having Tommy John surgery, Wood missed the bulk of the 2012 season. The Indians claimed the reliever off waivers in 2013, but he spent much of the next two seasons -- which included a brief return to the Royals' organization -- in the Minor Leagues.

As a free agent last year, Wood signed with the Pirates, but was unable to make the club and spent the year in Triple-A Indianapolis.

"I was thankful Pittsburgh was able to give me the opportunity to play again and turn my career around, which they did," Wood said. "Obviously, they have a really good bullpen, arguably the best in baseball. I had a good year, just one of those things where everyone up there pitched well and no one got hurt. I pitched well, the opportunity just wasn't there."

Wood posted a 3.53 ERA, converted 29 of 34 save opportunities and struck out 70 in 58.2 innings in Indianapolis, but the Pirates led all of baseball with a 2.67 bullpen ERA in 2015.

"We're hoping that we found a guy that should have been in the big leagues last year, but wasn't, based on the circumstances, that can give us some experience in our bullpen," Price said.

Although he never made the Majors, 2015 was far from a lost season. The 57 appearances Wood made in Triple-A were the most he had made in any season since 2011.

"I was able to get used to that day-in, day-out grind again, which I really hadn't done since coming back from surgery," Wood said.

After using 2015 to get back on track, Wood has his sights set on something bigger in 2016. He wants to make the team and once again be a reliable member of a Major League bullpen.

But as someone who hasn't pitched in a Major League game since April 19, 2014, Wood isn't focused on any particular role. He just wants to be out there again.

"I just want to pitch to the best of my ability," Wood said. "Whatever helps the team play the best, win the most games then I'm sure that's where they'll have me. I'm just a guy that tries to get people out. Wherever they want to put me, that's fine with me."

William Boor is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @wboor. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.