Wood finds his stroke vs. Cubs
Work with hitting coach Hatcher pays off for young slugger
MESA, Ariz. -- For Brandon Wood, it's all about relaxing, staying balanced and letting his considerable talent flow.
If a byproduct of finding the right alignment of elements is getting a chance to run the bases, so much the better.
With a booming two-run homer and a double, Wood busted out of a spring funk on Friday at HoHoKam Park. He'd arrived with two hits -- both homers -- in 28 at-bats.
"It was kind of cool to get on base," Wood said, beaming, having gone the distance at third base in a 6-5 victory over the Cubs. "It was nice to get a hit and run the bases."
That happened in the sixth inning after he'd gone deep to left-center against Ryan Dempster in the second.
A session with hitting coach Mickey Hatcher on Thursday clearly paid quick dividends. Wood had been a little too upright in his setup and too impatient, getting his body out in front of his hands.
"Today was the first step," Wood said. "I was kind of keeping things back. I'd been kind of jumping out there. I felt a lot better today."
The club's premier position prospect since his breakout 2005 season, Wood had 13 strikeouts and no walks in those 28 plate appearances before he launched his drive against Dempster in the second inning. Dee Brown had doubled in front of Wood, after Mike Napoli's RBI triple had cashed in the first Angels run.
The blast to left-center kept it an all-or-nothing spring for Wood, who watched his first non-homer fall for a hit when he socked one to the left-center gap in the sixth.
"He came a long way in trying to find a comfort level, a consistent load," manager Mike Scioscia said. "[These are] things he's had in the past.
"His swing today was better than we've seen in a long time. He was on about every pitch, and that was great to see."
Consistent contact is always a big issue with developing sluggers, and Wood, whose glove is Major League caliber at shortstop and third base in scouts' eyes, is no exception.
"With Brandon," Scioscia was saying before the game, "it's a rhythm thing, trying to find a swing. He's just struggling with some things we know he's capable of doing. He's just missing some pitches we know he's going to square up in the season."
Scioscia didn't have to wait for April for his prophecy to be fulfilled. In one fine day, Wood doubled his spring hit total, raised his average 54 points to .125 and was smiling again.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.