Wood overpowering on Opening Day

Angels sixth-rounder strikes out 10 in first professional start

Austin Wood threw 47 of his 75 pitches for strikes. (Pierson Clair/usctrojans.com)

By Ashley Marshall / Special to MLB.com | April 5, 2012 7:33 PM ET

Austin Wood wasn't ready for the chilly weather in the Midwest League, but he made his first professional start one to remember.

The Angels prospect struck out 10 and allowed a run on four hits over five innings Thursday as the Class A Cedar Rapids Kernels opened the season with a 7-2 victory over the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

"I felt great. This was almost like a debut for me, but I had a lot of fun out there and the team came up with some timely hitting," said Wood, a sixth-round pick in last year's Draft.

Wood (1-0) had to work out of the stretch in every inning except the first, when he retired the side in order. But he was able to keep the Timber Rattlers largely at bay with an overpowering fastball, a deceptive breaking pitch and outstanding defense.

Despite temperatures dropping into the low 40s at Fox Cities Stadium, Wood -- who pitched in the warm college climates of the University of Southern California, St. Petersburg College and Florida State University -- said his command was sharp.

"It was a little chilly out there, but that is something I have to get used to," he said. "I felt comfortable with what I had working and I was able to work inside, which opened up the outer half. My slider helped me out a lot and my fastball got up to 97 mph and really felt good."

The lone blemish on Wood's ledger came in the third inning when leadoff batter Yadiel Rivera was hit by a pitch and scored on Jason Rogers' two-out single to right field.

"I just went fastball away and he got his hands to it and drove it to the opposite field," Wood said of Rogers' at-bat. "I should have gone inside, but it was a good piece of hitting."

Wisconsin had chances to add runs against Wood, who credited his catcher and infield for limiting the hosts to one run while he was on the mound.

"[Catcher Abel] Baker called a good game and we were on the same page today," said Wood, who made a pair of relief appearances for short-season Orem last September. "Kaleb Cowart was outstanding, too. He was 4-for-5 at the plate, but he was a vacuum at third base and he made some plays with his cannon arm."

Cowart, the Angels' No. 5 prospect, finished a homer shy of the cycle, drove in two runs and scored twice. Lay Batista yielded a run on two hits over four frames to earn his first save of the season.

Matthew Miller (0-1) took the loss for Wisconsin after allowing four runs on six hits and three walks while striking out seven over four innings.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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