By Nick Patterson Herald writer
EVERETT — Perhaps no player had to make a bigger transition upon joining the Everett AquaSox this season than Grady Wood.
Wood, a right-handed pitcher, was making the jump from NCAA Division II to professional baseball. That gulf is far wider than the one for those coming from Division I colleges or the extended spring training.
But so far Wood is proving up to the challenge.
Wood turned in a dominating relief appearance Friday night against Vancouver, and it’s just the latest example of the kid from the small school making the grade.
“I think it’s going well,” Wood said about the start of his professional career. “I’ve had a couple rough outings, but it’s gone really well so far. I love the team, it’s a great experience.
“From what I heard it was a big leap,” Wood added. “I just had a little bit of a chip on my shoulder, I wanted to prove people wrong.”
Wood was untouchable Friday, retiring all 10 batters he faced. The first five came via strikeout, and he finished with six strikeouts. All six punchouts came courtesy of his slider.
“I guess they weren’t seeing (the ball) very well,” Wood said. “I’m a little different than (Friday’ starter Rusty) Shellhorn, a little different arm angle and they didn’t adjust very well.”
Wood is 1-0 with a 1.86 ERA and two saves. In 191⁄3 innings he’s allowed just 12 hits and five hits and has struck out 22.
That’s more remarkable given his background. Wood was drafted out of unheralded Western Oregon University, where he became something of a legend by winning his final 20 collegiate decisions. This spring he was 12-0 with a 1.69 ERA.
“Most of the teams in our league are really bad,” said Wood, downplaying his accomplishments. “We’ve won 11 championships in a row at Western, and it’s pretty easy when your team scores eight runs a game.”
Despite the low level of competition, the Seattle Mariners deemed Wood worthy of a 10th-round draft pick.
One of Wood’s unique characteristics as a pitcher is his arm angle. With the Sox, with whom he’s just been a reliever, Wood dropped his arm down to a three-quarters delivery. However, when he’s started in the past he’s used three different angles, also throwing straight over the top and dropping down to a full sidearm angle.
“I just wanted to be different,” Wood explained. “I’m a righty who doesn’t throw 95. If I was going to get drafted, I needed to do something. I guess it worked.”
And so far it’s working in the pros, too.
Vancouver outfielder Matt Newman has some Northwest League ties. His father, Randy Newman, was a pitcher for the Bellingham Mariners in 1982.
AquaSox athletic trainer Spyder Webb has been with the Mariners’ Northwest League affiliate for 34 seasons, so he was on the staff when Randy Newman pitched for Bellingham. Randy Newman was supposed to be in town this weekend to watch his son play, so Webb was hoping to meet up and see if Randy Newman remembered him.
Opponent: Vancouver Canadians
When: 4:05 p.m.
Where: Everett Memorial Stadium
Radio: KRKO (1380 AM)
Probable starters: Everett left-hander Steven Ewing (2-1, 4.15 ERA) vs. Vancouver right-hander Ben White (2-4, 6.31)