NEW YORK – Braves pitcher Paul Maholm is going on the disabled list with a sprained wrist, and rookie Alex Wood is coming back to the majors to take his spot in the starting rotation Thursday.
Wood, 22, will make his second major league start in a series finale against the Mets, the same team he faced in the first game of a June 18 doubleheader in Atlanta. That was a spot start in which the former University of Georgia left-hander gave up two hits, one run and three walks in three innings, with five strikeouts.
The other option to replace Maholm was Brandon Beachy, but manager Fredi Gonzalez said the Braves wanted Beachy to get another minor-league rehab start as he completes his recovery from Tommy John elbow surgery. He’s 13 months into rehab, which was halted for two weeks in June when Beachy had inflammation in the elbow.
Before the setback, Beachy had been scheduled to make his return to the majors in that June 18 game that Wood ended up starting.
Gonzalez said the Braves haven’t decided who’ll make the second and third rotation turns that Maholm will miss before he’s eligible to return from the DL. He said the Braves would like to get five or six innings out of Wood on Thursday.
“It’s his second start in the big leagues; I think he’ll be more comfortable,” Gonzalez said. “ That first start, he had 70 pitches in three innings, I think it was. (73, to be exact.) I think this one will be more comfortable start. And I don’t know how many Georgia Bulldog fans are here in New York, so maybe that will calm him down a little. They all came out to watch him start that day.”
A second-round draft pick in 2012, Wood was a dominant starter at Double-A Mississipppi this season before getting called up to help out Atlanta’s bullpen. In 10 starts at Mississippi, he had 1.26 ERA with 57 strikeouts and 14 walks in 57 innings.
He had a 2.37 ERA in 15 relief appearances for the Braves, with 21 strikeouts and five walks in 19 innings, then was sent to Triple-A on July 13 to get more innings and get “stretched out” to be a starter again. The Braves made the move for depth, in case they had injury, made a trade, or just decided Wood could improve the rotation.
Now he’ll get a chance to show he can.
Wood won his first Triple-A start on Thursday, working five innings and allowing three hits, one run and two walks with five strikeouts. He also hit two batters, and threw 46 strikes in 71 pitches.
Maholm flew back to Atlanta on Sunday and had an MRI Monday on his sprained left wrist. It showed no fracture, but the veteran left-hander had some swelling around the contusion. He will be DL’d on Thursday, retroactive to Sunday, the day after he blew a 4-0 lead against the White Sox and gave up seven runs and seven hits in three-plus innings.
If the Braves need to make a roster move Tuesday or Wednesday, they will DL Maholm sooner and make a roster move, then make another when Wood is brought up Thursday. But at least for Monday, their bullpen was in good shape after Mike Minor pitched a complete game Sunday in a 3-1 loss to the White Sox.
After going 6-4 with a 3.38 ERA in his first 10 starts this season, Maholm is 3-5 with a 5.53 ERA in his past 10, including 0-3 with a 10.13 ERA in three July starts.
He said he hurt the wrist while batting during his July 10 start at Miami, and that it didn’t flare up again until his warmup pitches before the fourth inning Saturday at Chicago. Maholm said the wrist wasn’t a factor in the third inning, when he gave up five runs including an Alex Rios grand slam.
He gave up two hits to start the fourth and came out of the game without recording an out.
The Braves haven’t been able to acquire the ace they might have wanted for the top of their rotation, but they secured the depth they needed Monday with the signing of free agent right-hander Gavin Floyd.
One week after the Braves were eliminated by the Dodgers in a four-game division series, Braves general manager Frank Wren met with the team’s beat writers and discussed the 2013 season and the team’s needs going into the offseason.