Wood Keeps Getting Better

Righties are hitting just .151 against Wood

ROME, GA - Left-handed pitcher Alex Wood out of the University of Georgia was the Brave's second round pick in the 2012 draft. Entering the season in mid July the lefty has been nothing short of impressive. With an ERA of 1.38, 36 strikeouts and 9 walks over a span of 39 innings, Wood has undoubtedly helped the Braves maintain their dominance over the South Atlantic League.

"We just drafted him. He came in the June draft he was our second pick in the draft out of Georgia," Rome Brave's manager Randy Ingle said. "He's good, very good. He's what you would expect out of a number two pick. He's legitimate, he's the real thing."

"It was pretty exciting [being drafted], you wait your whole life to have something like that go on," Wood admitted. "It definitely was a crazy experience but it's definitely one I'll never forget, and I'm excited how it all turned out and its been good so far."

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound left-hander completed his junior year for the University of Georgia where he was named to the second team All-Southeastern Conference and finished with an ERA of 2.73, which was the best ERA by a starter the school has seen in over two decades.

"I left after my junior year in school and red shirted my sophomore year," Wood said. "It'ss bittersweet, obviously I'm doing what I love to do and am chasing my dream but at the same time I miss Athens, it's my favorite place to be but I'll be there in the offseason, so I'll be back."

The transition for any first-year player immediately upon being drafted isn't easy, especially for college pitchers.

"Throwing off shorter rest," Wood said when asked what the biggest changes have been from college to the South Atlantic League Wood. "In college I'd throw every seventh day and here it's every fifth day. It's more recovery in between starts instead of maintaining strength and it's harder to do that with five days rest.

"The biggest thing I think for anybody from high school to here or college to here is feeling out the game and learning as quick as you can how to have success at each level, [that] is the biggest challenge I think for anybody really.

"But it's been good so far, obviously there's guys who've been doing it a year, two, three years and we have a great strength coach and trainer so it's been good."

Wood's pitching repertoire consists of a fastball, breaking ball, and changeup.

"I usually sit 91-95 fastball, changeup is probably 83-84, and breaking ball is 76-78 around there," Wood said.

"I'm continuing to improve my breaking ball. I feel like its gotten better since it's gotten here. I've been working on it with my pitching coach; he's been great so far. But my best pitch is my fastball. I like to think I can command the zone pretty well with my fastball and if you can do that then you'll have a lot of success."

"Probably his least effective, which he's working on right now is his curveball," Ingle said. "Most effective pitch is his fastball, which he throws in the 90's; it's got movement and he's got a good changeup. His breaking ball is good at times; they're still working on that to get that consistent. As far as his pitches go, fastball is his best.

"The thing about Wood is he's aggressive and he throws strikes, he doesn't back down. He has a great idea what he wants to do out there to a hitter; he's pretty much, I don't want to say he's fully polished but he's advanced," Ingle continued.

"He's very aggressive, pounds the strike zone, he throws strikes with all his pitches. His command is really good and his makeup is outstanding."

Wood's unconventional delivery has created quite the buzz.

"I've always had a pretty unique delivery, since I was little I guess. I like to think it's pretty deceptive, no body likes to step into the box and see 93-95 coming from the left side with all parts moving everywhere so I like to think it works to my advantage," Wood said.

"His delivery is working really good for him. He's hard to pick up and he's on the right path, he just needs to pitch," Ingle added.

"They'll probably tweak one or two things when I go to Instructional [League] in the fall but nothing too drastic, they've pretty much left me alone," Wood continued. "I think they think how I am right now is what's got me here and what I've had success with so they don't want to change it too much."

"The only thing they're working with him is the curveball," Ingle said, "trying to polish his curveball up and get it more consistent. This is his first year signed and we're just letting him go out and do his thing and show us why we signed him and picked him second."

In his last start against the Greenville Drive, Wood pitched five innings, giving up only six hits, yet having four strikeouts and no walks or runs.

"It was good [that] night," Wood said. "I felt I had all three working [that] night; I was able to command the zone pretty well.

"It's always nice when you're able to jump out to an early lead cause then you're not worried about every little thing as much, you're able to pitch your game and let the defense work behind you."

Ingle explained that they are limiting Wood's pitches for the remainder of the season to ensure his health, considering the lefty already had Tommy John surgery.

"He's very consistent," Ingle said. "We've cut his pitches back cause he's thrown a lot in college this year. So we've limited his innings, the Braves have, his first few outings he could only go three innings and then after that he could only go four and now he's up to five and that's probably the most we're gonna let him go all year is five innings.

"We don't want to have to shut him down and reach a point where he's throwing too much this year. They're limiting his innings so he can continue to pitch for us for the rest of the season so we don't have to shut him down."

To think he could have had a better professional debut season thus far would be unfair, posting a four to one strikeout-to-walk ratio in Rome this season and limiting opposing batters to a paltry .184 batting average, all a higher minor league level than most pitchers drafted this year.

"It's been good so far," Wood said. "Rome's a good town and I've enjoyed the guys on the team and we've had some success.

"It's a learning process as you go. You learn something new everyday, you just try to take it all in and get better everyday," he concluded.

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