Excuses Are Not for Chinatrust Brothers' Bryan Woodall

It's easy to make excuses for pitchers in the Chinese Professional Baseball League (CPBL) these days. With only a trio of teams to compete against, a starter may face the same opponent three times over the course of a month and perhaps 10 times over an entire season. Familiarity is the norm in the 28-year-old Taiwanese league. 

Additionally, the middle of each team's lineup treats opposing pitchers like batting practice. In 2016, the three, four, and five hitters for each squad averaged a slash-line of .353/.424/.589 en route to a record-breaking year for the league's offensesAdd in the shrinking strike zone, the “juicy” ball, and the random ballparks, and it’s safe to assume those aforementioned excuses are warranted. Nevertheless, right-handed pitcher Bryan Woodall of the Chinatrust Brothers is having none of it.

“I really try not to focus on anything outside of what I am doing because there is only so much that I can control,” Woodall mentioned before a game versus the Fubon Guardians at Xinzhuang Baseball Stadium. “You don’t need excuses, you just need to go and compete. Do the best that you can do and control what you can control.”

RHP Bryan Woodall is helping pitch the Chinatrust Brothers back into contention.
The Oliver Photo

Perhaps it is that accountability that has brought the 30-year-old success over his three-year career with the Brothers organization. Through 29 starts, the Arizona Diamondbacks’ 21st-round pick in 2008 is 13-4 with a very respectable 3.78 ERA, and after last Friday’s gutsy 118-pitch, come-from-behind, game MVP performance, the Brothers are now 20-9 in games that Woodall has started.

“Winning is the key,” the right-hander said after his fourth and most recent start against the Lamigo Monkeys. “We're really starting to gel as a team and we really just need a couple good weeks of play to get going. We're making progress every day and just working hard to be better every day.”

Woodall found himself in trouble early in that start versus the Monkeys. He allowed the first four batters he faced to reach base and by the time the half-inning was over, his team trailed 4-0. Despite the early struggles, the American pitcher would settle down and find his rhythm, which allowed his club a chance to crawl back into the game.

“After the first, I really just tried to pick up my tempo,” Woodall explained a day following the start. “I was a little slower than I wanted to be pitch by pitch and really focused on picking up my tempo and creating a better rhythm to try to execute pitches.”

Fellow import pitchers Bruce Kern (right) and B.Woodall.
The Oliver Photo

After the Brothers came back and took a 5-4 lead in the fifth inning, the Monkeys looked primed to tie the game or take the lead in their half of the seventh with runners at second and third and just one out. Woodall got a ground ball that veteran shortstop Wang Sheng-Wei threw home to erase the lead runner and record the second out. Then first-year manager Cory Snyder decided to intentionally walk reigning MVP Wang Po-Jung (a player Woodall has described as one of the best hitters he has ever seen) with first base open. This would set up a two-out, bases-loaded situation versus Monkeys’ clean-up hitter Lin Hung-Yu. 

“The last at-bat against No. 11 [Lin Hung-Yu], I had a really good feel for my slider,” the game's MVP recalled. “As the game unfolds, you really get a feel for a few pitches, but inning by inning, or during a particular matchup, there's always one pitch that you have a really good feel for and at that point in the game it was my slider.”

Woodall threw two sharp sliders that Lin swung through, followed by two more chase pitches off the plate for balls. With the count 2-2, the pitcher didn't waste any more time and came right back with another nasty slider that Lin had no answer for, striking him out and ending the Monkeys threat. The Brothers' dramatic bullpen would knock down the final six outs and help preserve the win for the starter.

In a game that seemed like it was lost before his team had a chance to swing a bat, Bryan Woodall showed that overcoming obstacles rather than succumbing to excuses tends to lead to successful results. 

So it's safe to assume that success is the import pitcher's favorite thing about playing in Taiwan, right? Well, not exactly.

“I love the atmosphere," confessed Woodall. "The crowds are great and the fans are great. It's hard for us to find another place that’s like this. They [the fans] bring it every night. They're into the game no matter how we are doing and they love it.”