To say Reds prospect Travis Wood has come a long way would be an understatement.
A year ago, the tall left-hander had one of the worst ERAs in the Southern League, pitching to a dismal 7.09 mark, thanks, in large part, to control problems and a limited repertoire.
When Wood toed the mound for his Triple-A debut with the Louisville Bats on Saturday night, the crowd at Alliance Bank Stadium witnessed the 22-year-old's astonishing transformation into Cincinnati's most promising southpaw.
Wood allowed a run on three hits over 6 2/3 innings, exiting before the Bats squandered a late lead and fell to the Syracuse Chiefs, 4-3. He struck out five and took a shutout into the seventh before a two-out homer put a blemish on an otherwise spotless outing.
"I had a little more adrenaline than usual," said Wood, who had a Minor League-best 1.21 ERA and 103 strikeouts when he was promoted from Double-A Carolina. "I was a little overexcited in the beginning and trying to do too much, but once I get settled in I was fine."
Wood's energy may have led to several early walks -- he issued four free passes - but it didn't stop the former second-round pick from handcuffing the Chiefs all night. He retired nine of the first 11 batters and didn't allow a runner to touch third until two outs into the fifth inning.
"At each level, the game itself gets harder, gets faster. And everybody's top shelf [at Triple-A]," said Wood. "So as a pitcher that just came up, you're a little cautious about your stuff. But it's just another game."
That mind-set explains why Woods breezed through the Syracuse lineup with the same relative ease he showed in dominating the Southern League. With the addition of a cutter and newfound confidence on the hill this season, Wood jumped out to a team-leading nine wins with the Mudcats, posting those 103 strikeouts while walking only 37.
"That's helped a lot," Wood said of the cutter, which he mixes in with an upper-80s fastball and changeup. "But mainly it's just going out and believing in your stuff and just having fastball command."
The heater isn't the only thing Woods has excelled at controlling. The lanky lefty hasn't lost since April 26, a stretch that includes 15 Southern League starts and his International League debut.
Saturday night's success could be the stepping stone Wood needs to extend the streak even further.
"It certainly helps, but it's still one start," he said. "I still have several more to start before the end of the year. [You] try to just keep your focus."