01/11/09 — Wooten's minor league career starts shakily in Rookie ball

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Wooten's minor league career starts shakily in Rookie ball

By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on January 11, 2009 2:00 AM

Milwaukee Brewers manager Doug Melvin felt fortunate that Rob Wooten remained available when the 13th round of the Major League Baseball draft began last June.

Wooten wasn't so sure.

The Fremont native started having second thoughts when he sat on the bench for two-plus weeks with Helena (Mont.) on the Rookie League scene. It took two weeks for Wooten to get his physical completed and each day he missed valuable time in the bullpen.

Wooten called his mom, Terry, every day.

"If Coach (Mike) Fox wanted me right now, I'd run back to Chapel Hill," said Wooten, who starred for two seasons with the Tar Heels.

His mom laughed.

"I thought it was a long run," she said, which drew laughter from the audience at Fremont United Methodist Church on "Rob Wooten Day."

Wooten's wife, Katie, encouraged him to deal with the adversity.

"Don't you give up and come home," Wooten recalled of the conversation with his newlywed wife.

He didn't.

"Once I got back on the mound and started having that competitive edge again, I knew this was what I like to do," said Wooten.

And becoming part of the team helped Wooten, who still owns several pitching records at Charles. B Aycock, relax more.

"It was tough at first because you really don't know what people's strengths and weaknesses are, and you didn't have that chemistry," said Wooten. "You didn't have people waiting for you on the top step of the dugout when you got a big strikeout.

"It's a much-more relaxed atmosphere."

Wooten adjusted to the culture shock of minor league baseball and once he started to play, he felt right at home. The right-hander posted a 0.00 earned run average in four appearances and earned two saves with Helena.

The Brewers' organization immediately moved Wooten to the West Virginia Power of the Single A South Atlantic League. Wooten logged 30 strikeouts in 222/3 innings and surrendered six earned runs. He compiled a 1-0 record in 10 appearances and finished with a 2.38 ERA.

Wooten knows he's there to focus on pitching and getting better each day, instead of trying to juggle classwork and baseball as he did while at UNC. He works on the fundamentals each day, throws fastballs in bullpen sessions, sprints and long-distance runs.

The Power coaching staff is developing Wooten as a closer, which is a role he relished with the Tar Heels. Unlike other Major League closers, Wooten relies on his location and off-speed stuff.

"Whatever role they put me in, I could care less," said Wooten, who currently lives in Sanford. "Whatever they tell me to do, I'll do it."

The 6-foot-1, 208-pounder has increased his workout routine since the new year started, and will workout each day until spring training begins March 14 in Phoenix, Ariz. Wooten won't know his assignment until the Major League rosters are set.

"My job is go into spring training, bust my tail and do everything right," said Wooten. "I liked to get moved up to High A (Brevard County, Fla.) and Double AA (Huntsville, Ala.). At least, that's the rumors."

Wooten feels like he's been in a whirlwind since reporting to Helena once the College World Series ended. He's found time to relax and has taken on speaking engagements.

"That's really cool and it doesn't get old," said a grinning Wooten. "Right now, I'm really enjoying it and taking it all in.

"I just want to have fun."

And blossom in his career.