With a big smile on his face, Royals reliever Travis Wood stepped into the batting cage four hours before Kansas City hosted the Houston Astros on Thursday.
Wood ripped the first pitch he saw and drove it 430 feet. The ball landed in the fountains at Kauffman Stadium.
Minutes later, rookie pitcher Jake Junis blasted another first-pitch home run into the Royals bullpen in left field.
Wood and Junis were taking batting practice as the Royals prepare to face the San Diego Padres this weekend. And the opportunity to possibly hit against a National League team is something that generates enthusiasm out of both Wood and Junis.
“I get excited for sure,” Wood said, who has nine career home runs and 51 hits. “Just for the opportunity to possibly rake one and go yard. I’ve tried to become as good as I can (at hitting), and I’m just fortunate to have had some success.”
Last October, Wood, who was playing for the Chicago Cubs at the time, became the second reliever in MLB history to hit a home run in the postseason: He belted a 393-foot homer in Game 2 of the National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Wood became a favorite bat for Cubs manager Joe Maddon, who used him as a pinch-hitter throughout the season.
Junis, who will be making his third season start for the Royals on Sunday, hasn’t had a plate-appearance since 2011, when he was a senior in high school. He called his parents in excitement when he found out he was staying on for another start, this time against a National League foe. Junis hopes the six-year absence from the dish won’t affect his performance, both on and off the mound, against the Padres.
“I’m sure that first pitch that comes in will look about 110 miles per hour,” Junis said. “It’ll be interesting and fun. I’ve always liked hitting. No matter what happens, I’ll be excited to step in and get that first big league at-bat.”