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Alex Wood wants to be a starter but is not frustrated Dodgers moved him to the bullpen

Alex Wood pitches in relief against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday
Alex Wood pitched a scoreless eighth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday.
(Harry How / Getty Images)

Alex Wood’s second appearance of the 2020 season was a scoreless eighth inning on Sept.1. That’s not how he envisioned it.

Wood rejoined Dodgers on a one-year contract in January for a few reasons. To win a championship after helping the club reach the World Series in 2017 and 2018. He adored the organization and had good friends on the team. But he signed, above all, to start games. Wood was given a spot in the rotation in spring training and again in training camp after the season was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The left-hander ultimately lost it once he landed on the injured list because of shoulder inflammation in late July.

Over the next month as Wood rehabbed, Tony Gonsolin established himself as a viable major-league starter in spot chances. Last week, the Dodgers decided Gonsolin was a better option for the remainder of the season. Wood was then notified he was returning as a reliever. Days later, Ross Stripling was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays to clear Gonsolin’s path.

“The situation that I came back to is the not the same that I left and that’s OK,” Wood said, referring to his time on the injured list. “I knew that even during a regular season that that had a chance to happen. I could end up in the pen potentially. I feel like I’m a good, quality starter. I feel like I got a lot of innings left in the starter role, but I came back to the Los Angeles Dodgers to win a World Series.”

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Wood, 29, said the organization informed him he would return as a reliever about a week before he was activated. He had been ramping up to assume a starter’s workload. He said he would’ve returned sooner had that decision been made earlier.

Wood indicated his shoulder trouble started early in training camp. He proceeded to start the Dodgers’ third game of the season against the San Francisco Giants. He threw 69 pitches in just three innings in a loss.

“Obviously, across the league, the injury rate is pretty astronomical as far as what a normal season looks like,” Wood said when asked if he believes the shutdown and subsequent short training camp contributed to his injury. “To pinpoint any certain one thing, I mean, you’d drive yourself crazy trying to say that one certain thing caused guys to have a higher injury rate across the league.

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“But I haven’t really gone down the rabbit hole to try and say this is why I think my shoulder started to bark. I mean, was it frustrating? Absolutely.”

Frustrating, Wood insisted, isn’t how he describes his recent turn of professional events. Last season’s struggles — back trouble limited him to seven starts with the Cincinnati Reds — provide perspective. He believes he has the track record and more than enough time to convince potential suitors during free agency this offseason that he is healthy and a viable big-league starter.

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In the meantime, he will pitch out of the Dodgers’ bullpen. He’ll likely serve as a long reliever to maintain length in case he’s needed as a starter. Eventually, he said, he would like to garner the team’s trust and pitch in high-leverage situations.

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“From the bottom of my heart, I came back here to win a World Series,” Wood said. “That’s why I came here. There’s plenty of other places I could’ve gone that were safer choices for me as far as my personal future and being able to stick in the rotation.

“But I’ve invested a lot to the city of L.A., to this organization. I love this organization as much as you could love an organization. I’m super excited to feel good and be able to contribute in whatever way I can and, hopefully, get across the finish line so we can hoist a trophy up at the end of all this.”


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