When he first heard the news that he hadn't made the team out of Spring Training, Milwaukee Brewers reliever Rob Wooten couldn't hide his feelings.
"It was hard to take," he said earlier this week. "I used the word 'devastating' then. I thought I'd make it out of camp. But they went with three left-handers. I was told that I would probably be back up soon, and, as it turned out eight days later I was. I did use that disappointment as motivation."
Wooten spent 2014 splitting time between Triple-A Nashville and Milwaukee, but spent more time with the Brewers. In 40 games, he had a 4.72 ERA with a 1.46 WHIP through 34 innings. He also struck out 29 and allowed 8 walks.
The emotions of having not made the big club roster seemed to linger.
"I learned this year that in 2013 I was myself. I pitched the way I had my whole career. But going into Spring Training and after that, I threw more fastballs and tried to throw harder. That's not how I pitch. Some of that might've been frustration. I got it back toward the end. You don't need to change. You got called up for a reason."
Wooten, a 2008 13th round pick for the Brewers out of the University of North Carolina, and is a native of Goldsboro, North Carolina, underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2010 season.
At 29, he's at a point in his career that puts him in a veteran-leadership role; that's naturally something guys who've made their way back and forth between Triple-A and the majors take on. They know the process. They know how hard it is not just to get there, but to stay. Even with all that experience, though, Wooten sees himself as a student, eternally.
"You're always learning. when I went to Japan to play, I was always picking guys brains. I gathered a lot, which helped my cutter and that's something I took into the off-season. I don't think you're ever done learning. I'm excited to apply all that this year."
While the conversation didn't focus on the recent lawsuit filed by former minor league players against MLB, Wooten talked about the experience of being a guy that's trying to get a job in baseball and have a good quality of life.
"It is difficult. But it was always about seeing the light at the end of the tunnel," he said.
In an era of baseball when signing bonuses are increasing to millions, things get tougher for guys drafted in the later rounds. They're competing with draftees that the team has invested an enormous amount of money in. At the same time, they're trying to have a home and take care of themselves.
"You aren't in the minors to make a living," Wooten said. "If I have a uniform on, I know I have a chance to make it to the next level. Not every person makes it to the majors. I see it all as a learning tool. You learn to live on not a lot. If you can apply that discipline, that'll help you later in life. There's negatives and positives. You have to be careful. Save. A baseball career is short."
Wooten is already prepared to head to Spring Training in a few days. And his mindset isn't one of anxiety, but of complete focus.
"I don't know if there's anything I have to prove. I've proven myself in many ways. You have to be at the top of your game. You can't just go through the motions. I have to compete at the highest level in order to be put on that roster. I'm going to work my tail off.
You can follow Rob wooten @RobWooten35