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Cincinnati Reds pitcher Alex Wood still fighting back stiffness

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The clock is ticking to have him ready for Opening Day.

MLB: Cincinnati Reds-Media Day Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The days of getting 200 innings out of starters have been fading rapidly across the baseball landscape, as just 13 big league pitchers reached that number during the 2018 season. That made the fact that new Cincinnati Reds pitcher Alex Wood had actually cleared 150 IP in each of the last two seasons a plus in this era, as that’s as much an endorsement of his durability as you can truly expect these days.

Unfortunately, if Wood is going to carry a 150+ IP load in 2019 - his final year before reaching free agency - he’s first going to have to figure out a way to physically lighten his load. Wood, who has only appeared in one Cactus League game so far this spring due to back tightness, again is fighting that same ailment, as MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon relayed earlier Saturday.

With a grand total of 1 IP under his belt in live Cactus League play and Opening Day less than three weeks away, it’s going to be quite the stretch to expect him to be fully ready to begin the season. David Bell and the Reds haven’t yet admitted as much, but considering it’s highly unlikely they’ll shove him onto the roster on day one unless he’s fully ready to be a starter, that’s something that absolutely has to be going through their minds at this juncture.

The good news, though, is that this doesn’t appear to be something structural, and certainly isn’t something that looks like it will keep Wood sidelined for a long period of time. It’s back pain, which the bulk of the RR crew deals with in their 30’s almost daily, and that’s something that shouldn’t keep Wood sidelined for too much longer, as even Bell admitted.

That brings to the front the additional good news - that despite the major acquisitions the Reds brought in this winter, they held on to the young starting pitching depth they’d leaned on last year. Tyler Mahle is likely next in line to pick up the slack should Wood not be ready to roll immediately as the season started, and you might remember that Mahle, still just 24, began the 2018 season as a Top 100 overall prospect who fired 6 innings of scoreless, 1-hit ball against the Chicago Cubs for the Reds first win of the year.

Maybe Wood will wake up tomorrow feeling more like balsa than mahogany, but at this point it just seems likely that he and the Reds are going to take this slowly to make sure he’s as prepped and ready for the bulk of the 162 game haul. And the playoff run, of course.