Less than three weeks after he was called up to help a short-handed Braves bullpen, left-hander Alex Wood will get his first major league start Tuesday to help the Braves cover their doubleheader against the Mets.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez announced after Sunday’s game that the rookie would start the first game of a split-doubleheader against the Mets. Wood will pitch the 1:10 p.m. game against Mets rookie phenom Matt Harvey, who is second in the National League in ERA (2.04) and strikeouts (102).
That just adds to the anticipation for Wood, the Braves’ second round draft pick last year out of the University of Georgia.
“I’m excited,” said Wood, who has made six relief appearances since his May 30 call-up. “(Starting) is a little more up my alley, something I’ve been doing forever. It’s definitely exciting to have the opportunity. Hopefully I can go out there and capitalize and have a good day. It means I get to go against Matt Harvey, so that should be pretty fun. I like a challenge.”
Wood will be making a spot start in place of Brandon Beachy, who was on the cusp of making his return from Tommy John surgery when he felt elbow discomfort in his final minor league rehabilitation start. Beachy was diagnosed with inflammation in his right elbow and an MRI revealed nothing structurally wrong. It’s considered a minor setback, and Beachy will begin throwing again once his elbow feels better.
For Wood, this continues a whirlwind three weeks which has seen him get called up from Double-A Mississippi to help the Braves accommodate for the losses of left-handed set-up men Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty to season-ending elbow operations. Wood has appeared in six games, allowing three earned runs in 7 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts and four walks.
Wood has been a starter throughout his career, including his first 10 outings in Double-A Mississippi this season where he went 4-2 with a 1.26 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 57 innings. Wood figures his familiarity with the role, coupled with the fact that he’s already gotten his first taste of the majors should help.
“Starting, I know exactly what I want to do when I go out there from start to finish and kind of adapt based on what happens in the game,” Wood said. “…It’s still a learning experience for me out of the pen. I’m excited. I’m ready to get the first start under my belt. It’s definitely a plus that I’ve been out there already for sure.”
Wood made his last start for Mississippi on May 25, going seven innings, allowing one run, in a win over Mobile. He’s confident he can go fairly deep in the game.
“Being in the pen is a different kind of in shape, but at the same time I’ve been starting for two months,” Wood said. “It’s not one of those things where I’ll probably be able to go nine, but my pitch count is enough to where I can go out there and hopefully get five, six innings, somewhere around there.”
Gonzalez said they won’t go in with a specific pitch count. And he’ll have some added depth in the bullpen because the Braves will call up a reliever from the minor leagues to use as a 26th man. That’s a rule Major League Baseball implemented last year so teams can add one player to their roster for doubleheader.
“We’ll take it an inning at a time, but he’s a guy that throws the ball over the plate,” Gonzalez said. “It hasn’t been that long since his last start.”