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For first time as pro, Wood not feeling spring pressure

Braves lefty able to relax, prepare himself and test pitches, sequences
MLB.com @mlbbowman

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Less than three years removed from his successful career at the University of Georgia, Braves left-hander Alex Wood finds himself progressing through his third Spring Training without the pressures he encountered the past two years, when he was competing for either a roster or rotation spot.

But while Wood understands he is in a position to use the spring as an opportunity to test pitches or sequences that he might not be comfortable utilizing during the season, he has a hard time doing so at the expense of ignoring his ultra-competitive personality.

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Less than three years removed from his successful career at the University of Georgia, Braves left-hander Alex Wood finds himself progressing through his third Spring Training without the pressures he encountered the past two years, when he was competing for either a roster or rotation spot.

But while Wood understands he is in a position to use the spring as an opportunity to test pitches or sequences that he might not be comfortable utilizing during the season, he has a hard time doing so at the expense of ignoring his ultra-competitive personality.

"I feel like I've started to understand what I need to do from a preparation standpoint, but also from a competitor's standpoint, because I like to go out there and compete," Wood said. "It's hard to go out there and think, 'I just want to work on these things for the betterment of my season.'"

Still, as he surrendered a pair of runs over four innings during Monday's 2-2 tie with the Astros, Wood took advantage of the chance to get a feel for throwing some back-door breaking balls and front-door changeups to right-handed hitters. In the process, he gained the sense that he was using pitching sequences that would at least resemble those he would display during the season.

Video: Outlook: Wood could emerge as a strong No. 2 starter

Wood surrendered a first-inning run when Jose Altuve produced a leadoff double and scored courtesy of the two groundouts that followed. The Braves left-hander was touched for another run in the second, when L.J. Hoes drew a two-out walk and scored from first base on Gregorio Petit's double down the left-field line.

"Today is the best I've felt from an overall standpoint, minus the walks. I might have got squeezed there a little bit," Wood said. "But minus those walks, I felt really, really good. I feel we're heading in the right direction and we'll just kind of keep going forward."

Wood has allowed four earned runs through 8 2/3 innings over his first three Grapefruit League appearances. He is scheduled to make three more starts before the season begins.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Atlanta Braves, Alex Wood