Bucs pluck Wood off waivers from Angels
Former first-round pick likely to cut into Cedeno's playing time
PITTSBURGH -- Once one of baseball's most promising young prospects, Brandon Wood will get a chance to resurrect his career in Pittsburgh.
On Friday, the Pirates claimed Wood off waivers from the Angels, who had designated the infielder for assignment earlier in the week. Wood reportedly drew interest from multiple teams, but the Pirates, by virtue of having the worst record in 2010, had first dibs on the waiver wire.
"Obviously, Brandon comes with a high pedigree as a prospect," general manager Neal Huntington said. "He's had some struggles at the Major League level. We felt that it was a good addition, a good chance to take for the organization. We still see the impact, the power. We'll see what we can do to help him."
Backup middle infielder Josh Rodriguez was designated for assignment in order to create roster space for Wood, who is expected to join the club on Saturday or Sunday.
Wood, who has played primarily at short and third, is going to take away playing time from shortstop Ronny Cedeno. The question of how much wasn't entirely answered on Friday.
Both Huntington and manager Clint Hurdle noted that Wood seems to have been hurt by inconsistent playing time with the Angels. But neither was entirely committal when asked how playing time would be doled out in Pittsburgh.
"Will he play? Yes," Hurdle said. "He's going to play. He's going to get at-bats."
Added Huntington: "Players' performance ultimately dictates the playing time. We brought him over here to fill the role that Josh was in -- be a versatile utility player that can bounce around the field for us and be a threat offensively. As he plays and as he progresses, he may get more opportunity or he may not."
Cedeno, oblivious that the Pirates claimed Wood until a reporter mentioned it to him on Friday afternoon, has done little to persuade management to keep giving him regular at-bats. He is batting .170 through 18 games and has only one extra-base hit. He has committed three errors.
"I'm just trying to do the best I can," Cedeno said. "I know I'm struggling a little bit. It's frustrating for me. I have to do my job. I have to make an adjustment and try and get better every day. I'm still thinking positive. I've never started slow and struggled like that. I have to keep my mind strong and do the best I can."
Wood, 26, has so far been a disappointment himself, not yet having lived up to his prospect status. Ranked as Baseball America's No. 3 overall prospect in 2006 and No. 8 prospect in '07, Wood made his Major League debut in '07. He has since spent parts of each season in the Majors.
In 173 games with the Angels, Wood posted a .168 batting average and has not shown the power that was his calling card in the Minors. Wood hit 43 homers in 134 Minor League games in '05, before following that up with 25 home runs the year after. He had at least 22 homers each Minor League season from '07-09, despite spending time in the Majors each of those years.
In the big leagues, however, Wood has gone deep only 11 times.
"I'm not sure the power was ever gone," Hurdle said. "One of the hardest things to do in any sport is to make that jump. In Triple-A, you strike out five times you play the next day. In the big leagues, you get unplugged. We want him to focus on one thing while he is here and that's being comfortable in the box and barreling the ball. Nothing else mechanical. Just get fresh and clean with it."
Wood played regularly with the Angels for the first time in '10, but never took the reins as the team's third baseman. A first-round Draft pick out of high school, Wood hit .146 with 14 RBIs and four homers in 81 games last year.
He appeared in six games for the Angels this season and had two hits in 14 at-bats. They took him off the roster in order to create space for Erick Aybar, who was coming off the disabled list.
"We're going to give him every opportunity to get as much as he can get," Hurdle said. "We'll be there for him to help him defensively and offensively. He seems to be very excited about the opportunity."
That opportunity could come at a handful of positions, though Wood should get most of his playing time at short. He is capable of playing both corner infield spots, and Hurdle said the club will likely also work Wood out at second base to see if he could be serviceable there.
Wood is out of options and will be arbitration eligible for the first time after this season. The Bucs will be responsible for the prorated portion of the $420,000 salary due Wood this year.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.