Braves Hold Second-Rounder Wood In High Esteem





ATLANTA—The Braves never have been shy about drafting a player with local ties, particularly when such a player is a lefthander with upside.

Case in point: Georgia southpaw Alex Wood, Atlanta's second-round pick in June. Scouting director Tony DeMacio said in the draft's aftermath that he felt like the Braves secured two first-round-caliber selections.

"It was special when the Braves called my name," Wood said. "I knew I was in the mix on the first day of the draft, but they decided to go in a different direction and select (prep righthander Luke) Sims, who's a great guy.

"They called me Monday night after the first round was over and said they wanted to get me with the 85th overall pick. It all ended up working out great."

Wood, 21, wasted no time signing for $700,000. He then spent a week at the spring training complex in Orlando before reporting to low Class A Rome.

Having not pitched in a game since the Southeastern Conference tournament in late May, Wood had to work his way back into a starting role. He tossed two innings in his first outing, three in each of the next two, and then four frames in start No. 4. He allowed 11 hits and six runs through 12 innings, striking out 13 and walking four.

"He's been impressive in the little bit we've had him," Rome manager Randy Ingle said. "He has a lot of poise on the mound, and he's a competitor. The early returns have been great."

Wood had Tommy John surgery shortly after his arrival at Georgia and redshirted his first year, 2010. He served as the Bulldogs' Friday-night starter during the next two seasons, including an impressive spring in 2012 in which he went 7-3, 2.73.

Employing an odd delivery that features a short, backward hop at the end, Wood pitches off a low- to mid-90s fastball with good movement. He throws an above-average changeup, but the Braves suggested he ditch his fringy slider and try to develop a curveball.

WIGWAM WISPS

• Righthander Gary Moran continued to pitch well since signing with the Braves out of the independent Frontier League midway through the 2011 season. He was 2-7, 3.13 in 13 starts since joining the Double-A Mississippi rotation on April 29.

• Triple-A Gwinnett first baseman Ernesto Mejia batted .302/.360/.527 with 17 homers and 59 RBIs in the first half as he made a run at the organizational triple crown.