If there is one weakness with the Atlanta Braves‘ pitching staff, it’s their left-handed pitchers. Mike Minor is 2-4 and his 4.31 ERA is the highest among all Braves starters. Both Luis Avilan and Ian Thomas have an ERA above 4.20 as well. Meanwhile, the Braves best left-handed pitcher Alex Wood was just sent down to the minors this past week.
The team announced that the reason for moving Wood back to triple-A was to allow him to start on a regular schedule. Wood had already been moved to the bullpen when Minor and Gavin Floyd returned from the DL. Even though he picked up three of his five wins pitching in relief, Wood didn’t pitch as well as he did as a starter, and the team wanted to get him back in a rotation.
There are several reasons why Wood should never have left the starting rotation in the first place. He started seven games early in the season for Atlanta, only allowing more than two runs in an outing once. Meanwhile, Ervin Santana has allowed five or more runs in four of his last six starts, and Gavin Floyd has allowed four or more runs in four of his last eight starts. Santana and Floyd were both acquired as free agents, and their contracts are the main reason why they were given the nod over Wood.
There’s also the issue of Wood’s future. His back and forth between the Atlanta bullpen and the triple-A rotation is reminiscent to how the Braves handled Kris Medlen. Despite success as a starter early in his career, Medlen was consistently moved between the Atlanta bullpen and triple-A rotation in 2012. After the struggling Jair Jurrjens got hurt, Medlen stepped into the Atlanta rotation and posted a 0.92 ERA in 11 starts. Medlen underwent his second Tommy John surgery before this season, and the back and forth between starting and relieving certainly didn’t ease the stress on his elbow.
Wood has shown the same type of promise as Medlen, and he should be given the opportunity to start at the big league level. It’s a shame that overpaid veterans are keeping him from getting that chance, and it will be an even bigger shame if the back and forth between starting and relieving leads to injuries down the road.