Royals pleased with Wood's recovery

Blake Wood went to spring training last year with a sore back that would soon require surgery.

This year the right-handed pitcher will head to Arizona as the Kansas City Royals' No. 4 prospect as ranked by Baseball America.

The Royals train in Surprise, Ariz., and Wood's quick bounce back has certainly been a pleasant surprise for the team.

After missing the first three months, the 22-year-old had some good moments late last season and then really turned heads with his performance in the Hawaii Winter League.

Wood, a North Gwinnett grad, struck out 57 in just 33 innings while going 2-1 with a 3.55 ERA.

"He was tremendous," Royals director of player development J.J. Picollo said. "We were happy to see him end the year the way he did."

Scouts were so impressed that Wood vaulted past all the other Royals prospects except the team's last two top draft picks - shortstop Mike Moustakas (2007) and pitcher Luke Hochevar (2006) - and pitcher Daniel Cortes.

"I needed innings and what better place to get them than in Hawaii," said Wood, a third-round draft choice in 2006 after his junior season at Georgia Tech.

Despite his late start on the 2007 season, Wood pitched eight hitless innings in an August start for Burlington in the Class A Midwest League and finished the season at Wilmington in the higher Class A Carolina League.

Wood, ranked as the Royals' No. 14 prospect before his back surgery, hopes to start this season in the Class AA Texas League, where Kansas City is moving its affiliate from Wichita to Springdale, Ark.

"We'll see," Wood said. "I really haven't pitched that much in Class A yet."