KISSIMMEE, Fla.—Drafted by the Braves in the second round last June, lefthander Alex Wood made the most of his invitation to big league camp.
"It's unbelievable how much I've been able to grow," Wood said. "Getting advice and learning the tricks of the trade, it's been incredible."
Ask anyone in Braves camp about Wood's delivery and they'll invariably mention the word "funky." The 22-year-old southpaw coils backward, pointing his right knee toward second base, before launching forward with a giant stride. After landing, he completes his motion with a backward hop on his right leg.
"He's able to repeat (his delivery), and he throws good, quality stuff," Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez notes.
Some scouts wonder if Wood's delivery might lead to arm problems. He had Tommy John surgery just prior to the start of his college career, wiping out his freshman year in 2010, then served as the Bulldogs' Friday night starter for two seasons.
Wood made a seamless transition to pro ball last summer, going 4-3, 2.22 in 13 starts at low Class A Rome until a pulled back muscle sidelined him before the playoffs. He struck out 52 in 53 innings.
Though he tops out at 96 mph, Wood impresses more with his ability to throw strikes to both sides of the plate with a low-90s fastball. He destroys the timing of hitters with an excellent changeup, though his slider needs significant refinement.
The Braves intend to develop Wood as a starter but realize his stuff could be even more effective out of the bullpen.
He will follow the path of recent college lefties drafted by the Braves, such as first-rounders Mike Minor (2009) and Sean Gilmartin (2011), and head to Double-A Mississippi in his first full season.
• Top prospect righthander Julio Teheran all but locked up a big league rotation spot by allowing just three runs on seven hits, striking out 35, through 26 spring innings. Improved command and consistent velocity were the keys for the 22-year-old, who logged a 5.08 ERA for Triple-A Gwinnett last season.
• Righthanded reliever Cory Gearrin showed progress after working with former Braves sidearmer Gene Garber on maintaining his mechanics and improving his changeup.