Wood scratched from start with forearm soreness

PHILADELPHIA – The Braves say they aren’t worried about the discomfort in Alex Wood’s pitching arm, but they also aren’t going to let their prized young left-hander risk making it worse by pitching Sunday in a game that means nothing.

Wood was scratched from his scheduled start in the season finale against the Phillies with what was diagnosed as a strained left forearm.

“It’s sore up near the flexor, nothing serious,” Wood said Saturday after meeting with manager Fredi Gonzalez and head trainer Jeff Porter, where the decision he had expected was finalized. “After my last start I just woke up the next day and it was kind of barking a little bit. So I got treatment on it several days. If we were still playing (next week) I probably would just make my next start.”

Since the Braves are not going to the playoffs, Wood’s impressive season is over. The 23-year-old had an 11-11 record and 2.78 ERA in 35 games including 25 starts, with 170 strikeouts and 45 walks in 171 2/3 innings.

Even if the Braves were in the thick of a playoff race, manager Fredi Gonzalez said Wood would likely have been scratched from Sunday’s start. The Braves piece together the season finale using reliever pitchers, and he didn’t yet know which reliever would get the start.

“It’s left arm tightness that he experienced after his last start, and we’re not taking a chance,” Gonzalez said of Wood’s status. “Our doctors saw him (Thursday) before we left, evaluated him, and said we’ll try, let him play some catch and do some treatment. He played some catch today.

“He would have really had to convince me and (pitching coach) Roger (McDowell). At this stage of the game and this stage of his career, we’re not even going to risk it.”

In the past, Wood might not have said anything about the soreness or downplayed it in order to make his 25th start, for better or worse.

“I’ve done a lot of dumb things when I was younger,” said the second-year Braves pitcher, a former University of Georgia standout. “It’d be a different story if everything was on the line (Sunday). I’m maturing as I go along. Both sides decided it was smart to do this, not risk going into the offseason with an injury.”

He was examined Thursday in Atlanta by Dr. Marvin Royster, the Braves’ orthopedic specialist.

“I saw the doc before we left. He said everything looks fine. Everything’s stable, everything’s good, just thought I had some forearm irritation, a little strain. He said that he wasn’t worried about it, I wasn’t worried about it, but I just don’t think anybody wants to make it any worse to where I went into the offseason with an actual injury, a real injury.”

Including two starts he made in Triple-A, Wood pitched 180 innings this season, more than 30 innings above his previous career-high in a single year at any level. Given his workload and the nature of the strain, the Braves weren’t about to risk Wood pitching in a game with no playoff or other implications.

The performance of Wood has been one of the bright spots of a mostly disappointing season for the Braves. Were it not for dismal run support, he could easily have collected another five or more wins this season.

Entering the weekend, there had been 110 major league pitchers who logged at least 140 innings this season, and Wood ranked 109th in run support with just 2.75 runs per start, ahead of only the Padres’ Eric Stults (2.58). His 2.78 ERA was tied with the Nationals’ Jordan Zimmerman for 19th-best among those 110 pitchers with 140 or more innings.

Despite pitching far more innings than he’d ever pitched before, Wood only got stronger as the season wore on. He began the season in the starting rotation because of injuries to other pitchers, then moved to the bullpen in early May.

The Braves sent him to Triple-A in mid-June to get “stretched out” again to start, and two weeks later Wood was back in the rotation on a permanent basis after Gavin Floyd fractured his left elbow.

Wood went 6-5 with a 2.43 ERA and .219 opponents’ average in 17 starts after returning to the rotation, including 4-3 with a 1.92 ERA in his last 11 starts. His performance assures he’ll be part of the Braves’ rotation plans next season.

“Yeah, it’s funny how things work out,” he said. “You go back and look at it and say, it could have gone a whole other way. Just in terms of, if Gavin stays healthy, I could have been a September callup. Which is hard to even wrap my mind around. It’s crazy how things work, it really is.

“It just goes to show you, you’ve got to trust the plan that’s going on, and know the big guy upstairs has a plan for what he wants to do, and you’ve just got to trust Him. I have to remind myself of that sometimes.”