Reds lefty Alex Wood is finally pain-free after struggling with back issues all spring, as Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes. He expressed optimism that he has turned the corner and is ready to move back towards the MLB roster.
Though Wood has still yet to throw off of a mound since a setback prompted a long layoff, there’s now some forward momentum — as well as a loose timeline. Now a week into a throwing program, Wood estimates that he’s “probably 2 ½ weeks” away from a rehab assignment. At last look, this kind of general rehab framework wasn’t yet clear.
Since he’ll likely need a few minor-league outings to build up a pitch count, it seems unrealistic to expect a return before the month of July. Nightengale suggests the All-Star break as a loose target, which seems reasonable.
That’s still a ways off. And hurdles remain, particularly since setbacks have thwarted prior attempts to overcome the back issues that cropped up this spring.
Wood thinks this time is different. “I feel really good,” he says. “Things have been going really, really well.” Though he acknowledged that he still doesn’t “want to get too far ahead of myself” given the course the injury has taken, he says he’s “definitely on the way” back to the MLB mound.
The Reds rotation has been a pleasant surprise even without Wood, an offseason acquisition who is earning $9.65MM in his final season of arbitration eligibility. But that doesn’t mean the 28-year-old southpaw isn’t needed back.
For one thing, it would be unwise to assume that the club will continue to enjoy such phenomenal good health from its existing unit. The Reds have yet to hand the ball to a pitcher other than Luis Castillo, Sonny Gray, Tanner Roark, Tyler Mahle, or Anthony DeSclafani to open a game. There’s also room to improve in the fifth slot, as DeSclafani has struggled.
If the Cincinnati organization is to make a charge this summer, it’ll need every advantage it can get. Wood could also be a trade or even a qualifying offer candidate if he returns to good form in a timely manner. And there’s obviously plenty on the line for the pitcher himself, who is slated to reach the open market at the end of the season.