5/29/2013 11:25 P.M. ET
Braves call up Wood to join depleted bullpen
By Mark Bowman and Eric Single / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- When Eric O'Flaherty underwent season-ending elbow surgery two weeks ago, Braves general manager Frank Wren said highly regarded pitching prospect Alex Wood was not regarded as an immediate option to strengthen Atlanta's injury-depleted bullpen.
But after their six-man bullpen was taxed during Wednesday's 3-0 loss to the Blue Jays, the Braves informed Wood that he would be coming up to the Major League level for the first time. Wood is expected to be in Atlanta's bullpen for Thursday night's game.
Wood has gone 4-2 with a 1.26 ERA in 10 starts with Double-A Mississippi this year. The 22-year-old left-hander has recorded 57 strikeouts and issued 15 walks in 57 innings. His unorthodox delivery and sinker have helped him limit opponents to a .195 batting average and produce a 1.63 ratio of ground balls to fly balls.
At this time last year, Wood was pitching for the University of Georgia. The Braves selected him in the second round of last year's First-Year Player Draft.
It has not been revealed how the Braves will create a roster space for Wood. He could be the addition that will allow the club to once again begin using a seven-man bullpen. The Braves have used a six-man bullpen over the past two weeks and were hoping to continue doing so for a little longer. But their plans may changed after Kris Medlen was forced to leave Wednesday's game against the Blue Jays after just two innings.
After Medlen exited with a bruised left calf, David Carpenter worked three scoreless innings and Anthony Varvaro provided two scoreless innings of his own. While Carpenter would definitely be unavailable to pitch on Thursday, Varvaro would likely only be utilized in an emergency situation. He has pitched on four of the past six days, including both of the past two.
If the Braves were to stick with a six-man bullpen, they could enter Thursday's game against the Blue Jays with four available relievers to work behind Mike Minor, who has worked into the seventh inning in four of his past five starts.
The decision to go to a seven-man bullpen would force the Braves to make a tough decision regarding one of their position players. There has been speculation they could attempt to trade catcher Gerald Laird or Reed Johnson. But the club likes the value both veterans bring to their clubhouse and bench.
The options are limited by the fact that Juan Francisco, Jordan Schafer and Ramiro Pena are all out of Minor League options.
The Braves bullpen did receive some support on Wednesday when Jordan Walden was activated from the disabled list. Walden's previously ailing right shoulder appeared healthy as he tossed a scoreless eighth inning in Wednesday's loss.
To create a roster spot for Walden, the Braves optioned Cory Rasmus to Gwinnett. Rasmus made two appearances over the past week for Atlanta and had the thrill of pitching to his brother Blue Jays outfielder Colby Rasmus during Monday night's game in Toronto.
Medlen exits early after getting hit by liner
ATLANTA -- Braves starter Kris Medlen exited Wednesday night's 3-0 loss to Toronto with an upper left calf contusion, but he is expected to make his next start.
Medlen was hit in the back of the left leg by a comebacker off the bat of Emilio Bonifacio in the second inning. He issued a four-pitch walk to the next batter he faced and surrendered Melky Cabrera's two-run single before retiring the side.
"It's a leg thing, and the more you use it, the worse it's going to get," Gonzalez said. "So hopefully, five days from now, I think he should be able to make a start, and we'll go from there."
"I've been hit by a lot of balls in my life, just playing short and whatever else, and that's probably one of the harder ones that I've felt," Medlen said. "I think I knew right away, but I just wanted to at least get through the inning."
The Braves brought right-hander David Carpenter out of the bullpen to replace Medlen before the start of the third inning. Carpenter teamed with relievers Anthony Varvaro, Jordan Walden and Cory Gearrin to hold the Blue Jays scoreless over the final seven innings.
"I know how tough it is for our bullpen to have to do something like they did today," Medlen said. "They picked me up big time. I was the worst pitcher out there today."
Before exiting, Medlen threw 38 pitches, allowing three earned runs on four hits on the way to his sixth loss of the season. This was the shortest start of Medlen's career.
"He tried to stay in there, and when you get hit in the muscle that high up, you start stiffening up a little bit," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "There was no sense running him out there any longer than that."
Beachy sees improvement in latest rehab start
ATLANTA -- Brandon Beachy saw his command improve in his second Minor League rehab start, working five scoreless innings for Class A Rome on Wednesday afternoon to put himself one step closer to returning to the Atlanta rotation.
Beachy scattered three hits, recorded three strikeouts and issued a walk during his 68-pitch outing. He needed 70 pitches to get through four less efficient innings for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday.
"That's good, that's encouraging," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He'll go on through his next rehab start and keep going that way."
Beachy will likely make three more starts before potentially returning to Atlanta's rotation to start one of the games of the June 18 doubleheader against the Mets. His next rehab start will come on Monday.
"If everything goes well, there's no setbacks or anything, [the doubleheader] would be a perfect fit, but we know about perfect fits," Gonzalez said. "That's why I do all my stuff in pencil."
Fredi plans on continuing "soft platoon" at third
ATLANTA -- As the Braves were completing a three-game series in Detroit in late April, manager Fredi Gonzalez indicated Chris Johnson would start getting a majority of the playing time at third base.
But since Johnson played third base in consecutive games against the Nationals later that week, Gonzalez has gone back to platooning the right-handed hitting Johnson and left-handed hitting Juan Francisco at third base.
Including Wednesday's matchup against the Blue Jays, Francisco has started at third base in 15 of the 26 games the Braves have played in May.
Gonzalez said he will continue utilizing a "soft platoon" that will at least allow Johnson a chance to occasionally start against right-handed pitchers. One such occasion will come on Thursday when he is expected to be in the lineup against Toronto knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.
After hitting .316 (18-for-57) with four home runs and 18 strikeouts in his first 16 games this year, Francisco entered Wednesday having hit .167 (8-for-48) with two extra-base hits and 24 strikeouts in his past 18 games.
Johnson's batting average dropped from .369 to .307 when he went hitless in his first 17 at-bats in May. But he has brought his average back to .346 while hitting .483 (14-for-29) with three doubles and a homer in his past 10 games.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.