Mar 17, 2014; Kissimmee, FL, USA; Atlanta Braves pitcherAlex Wood
(40) delivers a pitch during the game against the Houston Astros at Osceola County Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Foldy-USA TODAY Sports
With Kris Medlen’s Tommy John diagnosis, and the probability of Brandon Beachy undergoing the surgery as well, the Atlanta Braves starting rotation has taken a pretty significant hit. Two starting pitchers (one of whom was assumed to be the de facto No. 1 guy) who were thought to be “locks” aren’t going to pitch a single inning this year.
But, the season isn’t going to stop and wait for them. The Braves are still built to be a winning team this year, and the team is going to need some other players to step in and fill in some big shoes. Frank Wren quickly signed Ervin Santana to plug one of the holes, and as each Spring Training start passes for Alex Wood, it seems like he has a good shot at filling one of the other spots in the rotation.
Before we get into the numbers that Wood has put up let me remind you (for what seems like the thousandth time) that this is Spring Training. Hitters are getting used to live pitching again, getting their timing down and making adjustments from the year before. The same thing can be said of pitchers–they are working on finding their command, getting back to their normal velocity and even tinkering with new pitches on occasion.
So, the following should be taken with a few grains of salt.
But in spite of that, Alex Wood is giving the team some much needed hope. He’s thrown the most innings for the team so far in Spring Training with 14 innings (remember the small sample size…) and has already picked up 12 strikeouts compared with just two walks. He’s limiting hitters to a .220 average and is putting up a .93 WHIP. In all of those innings he’s also allowed just one unearned run and eleven hits.
Basically, Alex Wood has been extremely good so far this season and should be given the opportunity to start the season in the rotation. With the aforementioned injuries, Fredi Gonzalez only has three real “locks” in the starting rotation: Julio Teheran, Mike Minor (who has dealt with his own minor injuries as well) and Ervin Santana. Two fill in the other two spots, Gonzalez can choose between Wood, Freddy Garcia and David Hale. Based on those options, it’s obvious to me that Wood is deserving of the No. 4 spot in the rotation.
In an ideal world, the Braves would be able to start Wood out in the bullpen to manage his innings and then work him into the rotation as the year progressed and injuries (a bit premature this year huh?) allowed. However, the Atlanta Braves clearly reside outside of an ideal world, and Alex Wood just might have to be a starter for most of the season.
Fortunately for the Braves, he’s been pretty good.