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As Braves look for relief, perhaps Alex Wood could be an answer?

By Danny Knobler | Baseball Insider

With Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty both lost to Tommy John surgery, the Braves are looking for answers in their bullpen.

Can they do it without making a trade?

The Braves remain hopeful they can, even though the early signs haven't been good. They've had four blown saves in the first nine games since O'Flaherty got hurt, all of them in the seventh or eighth inning. Cory Gearrin has two, and Anthony Varvaro the other two.

Maybe Jordan Walden is the answer. Or maybe it's Kris Medlen or Julio Teheran. Or maybe Alex Wood.

The Braves have decided to promote Wood, the 22-year-old left-hander from the University of Georgia who was their second-round draft pick last June. Wood has never pitched in relief, but the Braves were down to one left-handed reliever (Luis Avilan), and manager Fredi Gonzalez has been pushing for them to try Wood.

Walden, the hard-throwing one-time Angels closer, was activated Wednesday after spending almost three weeks on the disabled list with a sore shoulder. The Braves acquired Walden in the Tommy Hanson trade over the winter, hoping he'd provide them some depth, but now they need more than just depth.

Walden saved 32 games for the Angels in 2011, but struggled last year. He had a 1.54 ERA in his first 11 appearances with the Braves, before three bad games just before he went on the DL.

Medlen was maybe the best starting pitcher in baseball down the stretch last year, with a 9-0 record and 0.97 ERA in 12 starts. But he has also had success in relief, and the Braves will have an extra starter once Brandon Beachy comes back from the DL in another week or two.

The Braves could move Teheran out of the rotation, but he has a 2.23 ERA in his last six starts, and his stuff suggests that he could be a dominating starting pitcher.

Wood caught Gonzalez's eye in 7 2/3 innings in spring training, and has been just as impressive in 10 starts so far at Double-A Mississippi (1.26 ERA, 57 strikeouts and just 15 walks in 57 innings).

The Braves originally planned to leave Wood in Mississippi for at least the first half of the season, allowing him to build up more innings before they moved him into a relief role in the majors. But with the middle of their bullpen struggling, they've made the move now.

 
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