Braves call up Wood to join depleted bullpen

Braves call up Wood to join depleted bullpen

ATLANTA -- When Eric O'Flaherty underwent season-ending elbow surgery two weeks ago, Braves general manager Frank Wren said highly regarded pitching prospect Alex Wood was not regarded as an immediate option to strengthen Atlanta's injury-depleted bullpen.

But after their six-man bullpen was taxed during Wednesday's 3-0 loss to the Blue Jays, the Braves informed Wood that he would be coming up to the Major League level for the first time. Wood is expected to be in Atlanta's bullpen for Thursday night's game.

Wood has gone 4-2 with a 1.26 ERA in 10 starts with Double-A Mississippi this year. The 22-year-old left-hander has recorded 57 strikeouts and issued 15 walks in 57 innings. His unorthodox delivery and sinker have helped him limit opponents to a .195 batting average and produce a 1.63 ratio of ground balls to fly balls.

At this time last year, Wood was pitching for the University of Georgia. The Braves selected him in the second round of last year's First-Year Player Draft.

It has not been revealed how the Braves will create a roster space for Wood. He could be the addition that will allow the club to once again begin using a seven-man bullpen. The Braves have used a six-man bullpen over the past two weeks and were hoping to continue doing so for a little longer. But their plans may changed after Kris Medlen was forced to leave Wednesday's game against the Blue Jays after just two innings.

After Medlen exited with a bruised left calf, David Carpenter worked three scoreless innings and Anthony Varvaro provided two scoreless innings of his own. While Carpenter would definitely be unavailable to pitch on Thursday, Varvaro would likely only be utilized in an emergency situation. He has pitched on four of the past six days, including both of the past two.

If the Braves were to stick with a six-man bullpen, they could enter Thursday's game against the Blue Jays with four available relievers to work behind Mike Minor, who has worked into the seventh inning in four of his past five starts.

The decision to go to a seven-man bullpen would force the Braves to make a tough decision regarding one of their position players. There has been speculation they could attempt to trade catcher Gerald Laird or Reed Johnson. But the club likes the value both veterans bring to their clubhouse and bench.

The options are limited by the fact that Juan Francisco, Jordan Schafer and Ramiro Pena are all out of Minor League options.

The Braves bullpen did receive some support on Wednesday when Jordan Walden was activated from the disabled list. Walden's previously ailing right shoulder appeared healthy as he tossed a scoreless eighth inning in Wednesday's loss.

To create a roster spot for Walden, the Braves optioned Cory Rasmus to Gwinnett. Rasmus made two appearances over the past week for Atlanta and had the thrill of pitching to his brother Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus during Monday night's game in Toronto.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for Eric Single is an associate reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.