Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood hopes to show his old Atlanta Braves teammates a thing or two
Alex Wood was more surprised than disappointed when he was traded from the Atlanta Braves to the Dodgers as part of a three-team, 13-player deal last July.
A second-round pick out of Georgia in 2012, Wood made only 26 minor league starts before matriculating to the big leagues and showed promise with the Braves, going 21-20 with a 3.10 earned-run average in 86 games.
Wood was in his third season in Atlanta, making a few bucks over the major league minimum salary of $507,500 and under club control through 2019. With the Braves clearly in tear-down/rebuild mode as they looked toward opening a new stadium in 2017, Wood — a young, inexpensive starting pitcher with upside — seemed to fit where he was.
“At the same time, it’s not like I got released. Being traded to the Dodgers was pretty exciting, too.”
His first start against his former club could provide some closure for Wood. The 25-year-old left-hander is scheduled to pitch against the Braves in Turner Field on Tuesday night, as the Dodgers open a six-game trip to Atlanta and Colorado.
“I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had this circled on the calendar for a while,” said Wood, a native of Charlotte, N.C. “It’s hard to pinpoint my feelings about it. It’s definitely exciting to go back there, to see some of my old teammates and play against them and to see family and friends. It should be fun.”
Wood’s homecoming will be enjoyable if he pitches more like the guy who limited Arizona to one run and five hits in seven innings last Wednesday night and less like the guy who had a record of 5-6 with a 4.35 earned-run average in 12 starts for the Dodgers after the trade.
Wood’s arm slot and release point dropped a few inches, causing him to lose velocity on his fastball and some bite and drop on his curve, which he throws with a spiked index finger.
But with extensive winter and spring-training work, Wood raised back his throwing slot and gained two mph on the average velocity of his fastball, going from 89.1 mph last season to 91.1 mph in his first two starts of 2016.
“I set out to improve and to get my velocity back this off-season, and so far it’s been good,” Wood said. “Now, it’s knocking down the door to that consistency with all of my pitches. I feel my stuff has been pretty good so far.”
Wood didn’t pin his struggles last season with the Dodgers on his ankle injury, which was not serious enough to send him to the disabled list but was a hindrance.
“I got into some bad habits before the injury,” Wood said. “Once I started having ankle problems, it amplified the issues I was having. I had to piece it together, figure out how to toe the rubber every five days. I was proud I was able to do that.”
But Wood seemed to get stronger Wednesday night, retiring 11 straight from the fourth through seventh innings and holding the Diamondbacks to one infield single in eight plate appearances in the third time through the order.
“It was nice to see him get over that hump,” Manager Dave Roberts said. “The key was working ahead and spinning the baseball. He trusts his fastball, but that third time through, he kept them off balance with the breaking ball and changeup, then set them up with the fastball. It’s a little cat-and-mouse, but he was outstanding.”
Wood would like to put questions about his third-time-through-the-order issues to rest.
“To me, it’s pretty nitpicky, especially with the success I’ve had to this point in my career,” he said. “You have to make adjustments and you have to make pitches.
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