CHICAGO — If Paul Maholm’s sprained left wrist forces him to miss any starts, the Braves could replace him with either Brandon Beachy or Alex Wood, who both were impressive in starts for Triple-A Gwinnett this week.
Wood, a rookie left-hander, was sent to Gwinnett before the All-Star break to get more innings and get stretched out to start again, the planned role for him next season (or sooner).
The 22-year-old former University of Georgia standout had a 2.45 ERA in 16 games in his first major league stint, including 15 relief appearances and a spot start in a doubleheader.
In his first Triple-A start Thursday, Wood pitched five innings and allowed three hits, one run and two walks with five strikeouts. He also hit two batters, and threw 46 strikes in 71 pitches to earn a win. The Braves wanted him to get innings to build arm strength, and give them depth in case of injury or if they were to trade another starter.
Beachy, 13 months into his rehabilitation from Tommy John elbow surgery, started for Gwinnett on Friday and worked five solid innings, allowing five hits, one run and one walk with three strikeouts. He threw 46 strikes in 70 pitches, then threw 15 more fastballs in the bullpen to get his pitch count to the targeted 85.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez said the postgame reports he got were good on both pitchers.
Beachy’s rehab start was his eighth, in addition to two extended spring training starts. He was set to rejoin the Braves last month before developing inflammation in his surgically repaired elbow after what would’ve been his final rehab start. He was shut down for a couple of weeks after that, and has made two starts since resuming his rehab.
“He threw the ball really well,” Gonzalez said of Friday’s outing. “He commanded the ball well, threw some breaking balls — it was good. A good sign. Encouraging.”
In 13 starts for the Braves last season, Beachy had a 2.00 ERA, .171 opponents’ average and 68 strikeouts in 81 innings before his season-ending injury.
“I felt like I took a little step forward,” Beachy said after Friday’s game. “I definitely felt more comfortable with my mechanics. I had command of my fastball. Felt like my weight was back and I was throwing strikes.”
Before the Braves’ game Saturday, Gonzalez discussed immediate plans for Beachy.
“It sounds like it’s getting close,” he said. “We’ll reevaluate tomorrow and the next day, see where we go, as far as the next step. Another outing, get him to seven innings or something like that. But as we’ve learned, these things usually take care of themselves.”
A few hours later, Maholm was charged with seven runs and seven hits in three-plus innings against the White Sox, and left the game with what was diagnosed as a sprained wrist on his pitching arm. Gonzalez didn’t think the injury would require a stint on the 15-day disabled list and said Maholm might not even miss a start.