ATLANTA -- The Braves temporarily addressed the surplus in their starting rotation by deciding Alex Wood will spend the next few days experiencing the first of what might end up being a couple of short stints in the bullpen.
Instead of making his scheduled start on Sunday, Wood will serve as a reliever through Wednesday, then return to the rotation to start May 17 against the Cardinals in St. Louis. This decision gives the Braves a second left-hander in the bullpen and a chance to harness the workload of Wood, who is on pace to pitch approximately 200 innings in just his second full season at the professional level.
"They're keeping an eye on me and they need some help out there in the bullpen right now, too," Wood said. "So, it's one of those things where it just kind of worked out. That's what is best for the ball club and that's fine with me."
Wood gained some satisfaction from his short-term role when he tossed a scoreless 10th inning to earn the win in Friday night's 3-2 victory over the Cubs. He had gone winless in his past four starts, despite allowing one run over eight innings in two of those outings.
The Braves have carried six starters and gone one man short in the bullpen since activating veteran starter Gavin Floyd from the disabled list on May 2. Floyd's impressive season debut on Tuesday seemingly sealed the decision that Wood would miss his next turn through the rotation. Aaron Harang will start Sunday's series finale against the Cubs with one extra day of rest.
Once Wood returns to starting next weekend, the Braves will once again have to address who to remove from their rotation. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has repeatedly said he will not use a six-man rotation.
"When we've had six starters, we've been trying to play it short in the bullpen," Gonzalez said. "A couple of times, we got ourselves really, really close to putting somebody in jeopardy with three [appearances] in a row or four out of five days. Putting Wood in [the bullpen] gives us some breathing [room], and also kind of gives him a little breather, too."
Wood compiled a 1.54 ERA in 35 innings through his first five starts of this season. Since then, the 23-year-old southpaw lasted 4 2/3 innings against the Marlins and battled command while throwing 104 pitches in just five innings against the Giants.
While Wood might not necessarily need to rest now, he realizes this short-term adjustment is aimed toward increasing the odds that he will be healthy and available to work as a starting pitcher down the stretch. The Braves are aiming to limit him to somewhere between 170-180 innings this year.
Gonzalez said there has been no talk of completely shutting Wood down at any point this season. If the young lefty approaches the innings limit, he will likely be used as a reliever.
"I think this is something that will happen maybe once or twice as the season goes on, just to keep an eye out for me," Wood said. "They're looking out for me. Right now, we need a little help in the bullpen too. So I think it's one of those things that works best for everybody. I'm just going to keep going out there, go about my business and throw well for this team."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less