Austin Wood thought he was putting too much pressure on himself in Spring Training, so he decided to relax. Through his first two starts this year, he hasn't had any reason to be uptight.
The Angels prospect tossed five hitless innings Wednesday night, leading the Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels to a 3-1 win over the Clinton LumberKings and improving to 2-0 on the season.
"I'm just out here having fun," Wood said. "I'm not trying to do too much. I think I put a lot of pressure on myself at beginning of Spring Training. I told myself I have to relax and do my thing, and I think that's helping my success."
After striking out 10 over five innings in his season debut, Wood fanned five in his second outing. The 21-year-old right-hander has allowed only one run in those two starts, good for a 0.90 ERA.
"[It's been] mostly fastball, slider," Wood said. "I've been trying to get ahead with the fastball. Both pitches I guess are strikeout pitches, so I've been trying to attack hitters and throw a few changeups. Just trying to get ahead and get ground balls. I'm trying to pitch to contact rather than blow it by everybody."
Drafted in the sixth round in June, Wood allowed three baserunners in his outing -- two on walks and one on a throwing error that he committed on a sacrifice bunt. He excelled at keeping the ball in the infield, generating 10 groundball outs and only one flyout.
"I was trying to work down as much as I could," Wood said. "I missed up a little bit, but I got punchouts with the slider. I just had a lot of help from my defense."
Joe Melioris gave up one hit over two innings after taking over for Wood, while Stephen Tomblee tossed a perfect eighth. The LumberKings got to Ty Kelly for three hits and a run in the ninth, but the 23-year-old right-hander was able to close them out for his second save.
Though the Kernels thought they had a no-hitter going into the final frame -- an error by Cedar Rapids outfielder Ryan Jones in the sixth was later changed to a double for Clinton's Daniel Paolini by the official scorer -- Wood said he was not nervous watching his teammates.
"Melioris came in and did a great job. He looked great," Wood said. "And then Tomblee came in and did well. I wasn't really nerve-racked at all. Kelly did a good job too. ... He didn't give up any hard hits. Overall, I think the pitching staff did awesome."
Jones drove in the Kernels' first run with a bases-loaded groundout in the fourth, and Angels' No. 5 prospect Kaleb Cowart followed with a steal of home moments later. Frazier Hall plated Cedar Rapids' final run with a two-out single in the eighth.
Wood's intent on playing a role in the Kernels' success this season.
"Just continue to do well and help out as much as I can and contribute," he said. "Whatever happens, happens. I just want to go out there and give it my best every outing and help my team as much as possible."