Eric Wood Takes A Step Forward
PITTSBURGH—Third baseman Eric Wood was not upset when he found out at the end of spring training last year that he was headed back to Double-A Altoona for a second straight season.
Any frustration Wood might have felt he took out on Eastern League pitchers. The 24-year-old hit .249/.339/.443 with 16 home runs in 118 games.
While the numbers were not gaudy, it was a step forward for the 2012 sixth-round pick from Blinn (Texas) JC, who grew up in Ajax, Ontario.
"I didn’t really think about repeating Double-A a whole lot, I just looked at it as another opportunity,” Wood said. "That’s kind of what the game is to me. As long as you’re playing, you have a shot. It doesn’t really matter where you are, because as long as you’re playing, and you continue to play, you have a chance, and I just wanted to prove that I could play after that rough year.”
That rough year came in 2015 when he batted .237/.303/.305 with just two home runs in 101 games.
Yet the Pirates stuck with him, and Wood not only opened eyes in the regular season but followed with a strong winter-ball performance, first in the Arizona Fall League then in the Dominican League. He also played first base and left field to increase his versatility.
The Pirates invited Wood to big league camp as a non-roster player. They declined to add him to the 40-man roster last November even though was eligible for the Rule 5 draft.
"I stopped giving away as many at-bats,” Wood said when asked what sparked his success in 2016. "That was the key for me—not missing pitches when I get them and not losing focus to the point where I was giving at-bats away.
"Pitchers at all levels will make mistakes. You even see it in the big leagues all the time, so it’s just about being ready to hit when you get that pitch.”
• Outfielder Austin Meadows, the system’s top prospect, also received a non-roster invite as well as 2015 first-round shortstop Kevin Newman,righthander Edgar Santana and outfielders Barrett Barnes and Danny Ortiz.
• Santana took part in the rookie-development program along with righthanders Clay Holmes and Dovydas Neverauskas and second baseman Max Moroff.
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— John Perrotto is a writer based in Beaver Falls, Pa.