BROCK AND SALK

Mariners’ Woo eager to take lessons learned as rookie into 2024

Feb 21, 2024, 2:39 PM | Updated: 2:39 pm

2023 was quite the eventful year for Seattle Mariners right-hander Bryan Woo.

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Woo, a 2022 MLB Draft pick, entered the year having just 16 minor league games under his belt, with none coming above High-A. But Woo made his MLB debut last summer and ended the 2023 season with 18 MLB starts. Woo now enters 2024 penned in as a member of the Mariners’ five-man starting rotation.

“It’s been pretty crazy,” Woo told Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk of the last calendar year. “Looking back last year, first camp, hadn’t been to it and kind of didn’t really know what to expect. I knew I wasn’t going to make the team out of camp, so I really just tried to come in and enjoy it and take it all in and meet everybody new. And then this year, obviously I’m coming in on a whole different side of it being part of the team and kind of knowing everybody a little bit, but still trying to get to know all the new guys and any new staff or whatever it is. But yeah, we’re having a good time so far.”

Woo finished his rookie campaign with a 4.21 ERA and 1.209 WHIP across those 18 starts. Due to various injuries and surgeries between his college years and getting drafted, the 131 2/3 innings Woo threw between Double-A and MLB last year were far and away the most he’d thrown in a single year. That definitely took a toll on the young pitcher, and it’s something he’s learning from.

“I definitely hit a wall there later in the season. I mean, it’s a long year, it’s my first full season as a professional, it’s the most innings I’ve thrown,” he said. “So that was definitely a big learning curve was just kind of understanding how long a season is, what it takes to get through a whole season and what really matters is being ready to go at the tail-end of September and making a run into the playoffs.”

Part of what’s helped Woo is that he’s in a rotation with three very established big leaguers in Luis Castillo, Logan Gilbert and George Kirby. Gilbert and Kirby are both very young, having debuted in 2021 and 2022, respectively, and have been great resources for Woo.

“They’ve been amazing. To have guys like that that have already have so much success, but also be so young and they’re not that far removed from kind of where you are, where I am now, it helps a lot,” he said. “I think when you have guys that are older, seasoned veterans, they might be a little bit more removed from just the experiences that you go through as a rookie or (being) a younger guy on a team. So it’s really, really nice to have those guys here. You kind of just have ongoing conversations about a number of different things, whether it’s a mental approach to game, pitches, grips, routines throughout a year. It’s a number of different things. But everybody on our staff is so open and easy to get along with. I’m pretty thankful to have them.”

As for 2024, a big part of Woo’s growth will be getting left-handed hitters out. Lefties slashed a robust .283/.389/.540 (.928 OPS) off Woo his rookie year.

While a lot of focus will be on how his pitches play to lefties, Woo says a lot of it is mental, too.

“What I did against righties was really just not try to overcomplicate anything. After the first couple of weeks, I started hearing like the differences (in numbers between righties and lefites) and I think in my mind I tried to do too much against lefties while I kept my approach pretty simple against righties,” he said. “I think really trying to simplify my approach against both, that’s gonna give me the best chance of success. Obviously we’re working on things here and all offseason on offspeeds and secondary pitches for strikes and all types of different things. But I think when it comes down to it, it’s really just doing the small things and doing the simple things at a high level.”

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