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Mudcats' Wood sets down Suns06/07/2009 9:18 PM ET
By Mason Kelley / Special to MLB.com
Here it is, hit it.
When Carolina Mudcats left-hander Travis Wood took the mound Sunday, he went in with a simple objective. He knew he had control of all five of his pitches and planned on challenging the Jacksonville Suns all night.
The left-hander gave up three hits and tied a career high with 11 strikeouts en route to his first complete game as the Mudcats blanked the Suns, 2-0.
"Everything felt good," Wood said. "All my pitches worked. When they put the ball in play, the defense was backing me. We just played well today as a team and battled and battled and ended up pulling it off."
After going 4-9 with a 7.09 ERA at Double-A Chattanooga last season, he was frustrated. He knew he needed to find more consistency with his pitches, which would produce more strikes. He threw away a season squandered and started preparing for a new one.
"I just tried to come out and give it everything I can every start. And, so far, it's been working," said Wood, who has won his last five decisions.
The 22-year-old came into the season looking to challenge hitters, an approach that's yet to let him down.
"It's my day or yours," he said. "You don't second-guess yourself."
Here it is.
Against the Suns, he retired six of the first seven batters.
"It went by so quick," the former second-round pick said.
Then, all of a sudden, it was the fifth inning and he still felt good. When he took the mound for the eighth, he thought, "Woo, everything is still feeling good." And in the ninth, one inning away from his first complete game as a professional, he told himself, "Three more."
"It's amazing," Wood said. "Their pitcher was going right there with me, so it was a battle."
But Wood took a mental advantage into each frame. He knew he could throw any of his pitches -- fastball, cutter, slider, curve or changeup -- over the plate, no matter the count.
"If he hits it, he hits it and you move on," Wood said. "It's a nice array of pitches to keep the hitter confused."
He retired the final 17 Suns and has yet to give up more than two earned runs in any appearance this season. Through 12 starts, he is 5-3 with a 1.22 ERA that ranks in the top 10 in all of the Minor Leagues. To top it off, Wood has given up only three earned runs over 38 innings at road parks.
Here it is, hit it.
"It ranks up there at the top of it," said Wood. "There's nothing better than keeping your team in it and giving them a chance to win. I'll just move on from this and go to the next start and see if we can't go it again."
If he keeps shutting down opponents, a trip to Triple-A might be in the future. But he remains focused on the road ahead.
"I would love to, but that's not my decision, so I'll just keep doing what I'm doing and, eventually, I'll be where I want to be," Wood said.
Here he comes.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.