Dear diary: Zeros for M-Braves' Wood

Mississippi left-hander lowers ERA to league-best 0.47 in win

Alex Wood missed most of the 2010 season following Tommy John surgery. (Ed Gardner)

By Ashley Marshall / Special to | May 9, 2013 9:14 PM ET

Atlanta Braves prospect Alex Wood keeps track of his progress in a journal that he's been making notes in regularly since the start of Spring Training.

As with virtually all of his starts this year, Thursday's outing gave the second-rounder plenty of superlatives to scribble down.

Wood (2-1) allowed two hits and two walks while striking out five batters over seven innings in the Double-A Mississippi Braves' 5-0 win over the Montgomery Biscuits.

The southpaw threw 61 of 96 pitches for strikes, hit one batter and uncorked one wild pitch in lowering his ERA to a Southern League-best 0.47.

"I've never used one before," the Braves' No. 5 prospect said of the journal, "but when I got drafted last year, Geoff Miller, the team psychologist, recommended to me and a few other guys I played with in Rome, like Navery Moore, that we get one.

"I got it in Spring Training when I had the chance to learn from the big league guys on a daily basis. Now I usually write in it after every start. I put my line at the top and I write down notes about their hitters and how I went through their lineup and how they did and what I can do next time to better myself next time I face them."

On Thursday, Wood did not allow a runner to reach scoring position until the fifth inning. Riccio Torrez was hit by a pitch, he advanced to second on a wild pitch and advanced to third on Greg Sexton's groundout. But the left-hander retired Mayo Acosta to keep the Biscuits off the board.

Montgomery threatened again an inning later when Robi Estrada singled to center field and third baseman Edward Salcedo misplayed Mikie Mahtook's ground ball. But Wood once again escaped unharmed, retiring five of the final six batters he faced, including consecutive strikeouts to end his evening.

"I thought it was very good," Wood said. "I've had a little frustration throwing just four or five innings in my last two games even though I had not given up many runs. I'm glad I was able to go a little deeper into the ballgame.

"My fastball and changeup was good, but tonight was probably the first time I did not have my breaking ball the whole night. I located my fastball in and out pretty well and I got a lot of early contact, so there was really not much need for it."

The 6-foot-4 left-hander has been dominant in his first trip through the Southern League.

He has not allowed an earned run in 29 innings over five games, dating back to his second start of the season on April 12.

The 22-year-old Georgia product limited Mobile to one hit over five innings but didn't factor into the decision on April 6, but he took the loss in Birmingham six days later after allowing two runs over four innings.

Since then, he's cruised. He scattered four hits over seven scoreless frames against Jacksonville on April 17 and he struck out eight BayBears over six more shutout innings on April 22.

He earned his first win after putting up another five zeros in Huntsville in his fifth start of the year -- breaking Tommy Hanson's 2008 M-Braves record of 17 2/3 straight scoreless innings -- before seeing his streak come to an end when he allowed an unearned run to Tennessee on May 3.

"There's no secret, that's for sure. I'm shocked at myself," Wood said of his success. "It's just getting silly at this point. I can't explain it. I don't want to say my numbers aren't realistic, but over 150 games, nobody sticks the numbers that I've put up. I take it with a grain of salt."

Over 38 innings, Wood has struck out 43 batters and issued nine free passes. He has given up just 25 hits and he has yet to see allow a homer. His 0.89 WHIP ranks first in the Southern League, while his .179 opponents batting average ranks fourth.

Part of the success could be his routine. He wakes up at 9:30 a.m. every day and eats breakfast at 10:30. From there, it's a meal every three hours; a sandwich or piece of fruit at lunch at 1:30 p.m. and a good snack at 4:30 before a night game.

The day-to-day routine is part of the bigger schedule. The day after a start, he works out his lower body in the morning and strengthens his core. He trains with a weighted ball and throws from 90 feet to get shoulder work in.

On day two, the 2012 Braves draftee throws between 120 and 150 feet, and on the third day he throws 20 to 25 pitches in his bullpen session. Every day apart from the day immediately following a game, he also throws 10 or 15 pitches from a medium distance on flat ground.

The day before a start he watches what teammate JR Graham does on the mound. Wood follows Graham in the M-Braves' rotation and considering they are both fastball-first power pitchers, he likes to see how he attacks hitters. After the game, Wood speaks with Graham about his approach about what did and didn't work.

"I definitely had great success tonight," said Wood. "Guys in this league and at Double-A are good, so you can't really do the same thing twice. I didn't throw my breaking ball much tonight, so hopefully I can throw it in next time [I face Montgomery] for a different look."

On Thursday, Braves reliever Mark Lamm gave up a hit and a walk while striking out three batters over the final two innings to seal the win. Left fielder Kyle Russell hit a two-run homer, third baseman Edward Salcedo was 2-for-4 with a double, an RBI and a run scored and first baseman Christian Marrero reached base three times and scored twice.

Ashley Marshall is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter @AshMarshallMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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