Atlanta Braves pitcher Alex Wood delivers to the Toronto Blue Jays in the ninth inning of a baseball game, his debut in the majors, in Atlanta, Thursday, May 30, 2013. Atlanta won 11-3. (AP Photo/David Tulis)
SAN DIEGO — Braves rookie pitcher Alex Wood has a vision problem. He couldn’t see the signs his catcher was showing with his fingers during night games unless the catcher showed them blatantly and openly.
That made it easier for other teams to pick up the signals. But that wasn’t really an issue in the minor leagues.
“Up here, you need a good rhythm, not have any hiccups,” the former University of Georgia left-hander said. “Down there it didn’t really matter. They could steal signs and I could still get them out.”
That was evident from Wood’s 1.26 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 57 innings over 10 Double-A starts this season.
But as he said, he’s in the big leagues now and he and the Braves couldn’t afford to have the catcher put down his signals openly without trying to conceal the hand with his thighs. That’s just what happened during Wood’s second major league appearance on June 3, when he couldn’t see what catcher Brian McCann was calling.
Wood was charged with two hits, a run and a walk in two innings that night. He hasn’t pitched without glasses since.
He was fitted for a temporary pair of metal-rimmed Oakley glasses before the Braves left Atlanta and wore them during two appearances against the Dodgers during series that ended Sunday. Wood gave up just one hit in 2 2/3 scoreless innings in those games and struck out three Dodgers in his two-inning stint Sunday.
A new pair of custom-made prescription sports glasses is expected to be waiting for him when the Braves get back to Atlanta after the San Diego series that started Monday.
“No. I’ve always had trouble seeing at night, because I’ve got a bad astigmatism,” said Wood, 22. “But I’ve just always been able to figure it out, by just blatantly (showing) the signs. If I can see them, then everybody can see them. You can’t afford to help any (opponent), in terms of making it easier for them to see the signs or try to pick off our signs.”
Pena improving: After leaving Sunday’s game with a sore throwing shoulder following two diving plays, infielder Ramiro Pena said he felt better Monday and hoped to be cleared to play if the Braves needed him. He thought he pinched a nerve in the shoulder making a strong throw to first base on a third-inning play, then aggravated it when he made another diving stop later in the game.
The Atlanta Braves delivered their pitch to real estate developers Friday, formally opening the search for a partner on a proposed $400 million mixed-use development adjacent to a new Cobb County stadium.
Atlanta Braves executives will return to work from their Thanksgiving travels Monday, still thankful for $300 million in public funding for a new stadium but aware that last week’s vote by the Cobb County Commission signaled the start of an unforgiving timetable to get the ballpark built by 2017.