7/22/2013 7:29 P.M. ET
With Maholm DL-bound, chance arises for Wood
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- While Paul Maholm spends the next two weeks resting a bruised left wrist, Alex Wood will have a chance to prove he is ready to be a dependable part of Atlanta's starting rotation.
When the Braves sent Wood to Triple-A Gwinnett just before the All-Star break, their plan was for the rookie left-hander to stretch his arm out in preparation of joining Atlanta's rotation before the end of July.
The opportunity to put Wood in the big league rotation materialized on Monday, when the Braves determined they would place Maholm on the 15-day disabled list with a left wrist contusion. This transaction will not officially be made until Thursday, when Wood will be promoted from Gwinnett in time to start in place of Maholm against the Mets.
Maholm said he first felt wrist discomfort swinging a bat during his July 10 start in Miami. After that start against the Marlins, he discussed fouling a ball off his right foot, getting hit with a comebacker and nearly getting hit by a foul ball while he was in the on-deck circle. But he did not mention the wrist ailment until Saturday, when he allowed five second-inning runs against the White Sox and then began favoring his wrist before exiting during the third inning.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he was relieved to learn Maholm had not suffered a fracture that would have sidelined the veteran left-hander for a significant amount of time. After evaluating an MRI exam performed in Atlanta on Monday, Dr. Gary Lourie told the Braves that Maholm should be ready to pitch when he is eligible to come off the disabled list on Aug. 5.
If Wood proves effective on Thursday, he could fill each of the three turns Maholm will miss while on the DL.
Wood's only previous big league start came on June 18, when he threw 73 pitches and completed just three innings against the Mets. The 22-year-old's struggles that afternoon were a product of nerves, a bleeding callous on his left index finger and the fact that he had been used exclusively as a reliever during the three previous weeks dating back to his May 29 promotion from Double-A Mississippi.
"It's his second start in the big leagues," Gonzalez said. "I think this will be a little more comfortable start."
Wood was sent to Gwinnett less than 24 hours after he threw 3 2/3 scoreless innings in relief of Kris Medlen during a July 12 loss against the Reds. The early speculation was that Wood would make a start or two at the Minor League level and then move into Medlen's rotation spot.
The Braves will have another interesting rotation-related decision after Brandon Beachy makes what is expected to be his final Minor League rehab start for Gwinnett on Wednesday. If Medlen struggles on Tuesday against the Mets, he could eventually be moved to the bullpen to make room for Beachy, who is working back from Tommy John surgery.
The Braves could have started Beachy in Maholm's place on Thursday. But the team instead opted to stick with the initial plan to allow Beachy to make one more Minor League rehab start. Beachy has not recently been bothered by the right elbow inflammation that sidelined him when he was originally slated to return in the middle of June.
Back in lineup, Heyward playing it safe on bases
NEW YORK -- When Jason Heyward grabbed at his right hamstring after sliding awkwardly into third base on July 11, it appeared he might have suffered an injury that would have sidelined him for a significant period. But thanks to the All-Star break and some good fortune, Heyward missed just six games.
Heyward returned to the Braves' lineup for Monday night's series opener against the Mets at Citi Field. The 23-year-old outfielder said he might show some caution while running the bases over the next few days.
"I've got to be smart about it, because it is so close to it happening," Heyward said. "I've got to know when to push and when not to push. Defensive-wise, I'm not concerned at all. Baserunning-wise, it's where I have to be smart. But I have it in me to push when I need to score on a ball or something like that."
Heyward might have returned during this past weekend's series against the White Sox if he would have been handling his primary duties in right field. But because the Braves are planning for him to play center field until B.J. Upton returns from the disabled list, Heyward opted to rest his leg at least one additional day.
Upton has been sidelined since July 12 with a strained right adductor muscle. While he was able to jog on the field before Monday night's game, the Braves have not set a projected timetable for his return.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.