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Wood revels in rush of big league debut

ATLANTA -- Approximately 24 hours after receiving word that he was getting his first call-up to the Major League level, Alex Wood experienced the thrill of a lifetime with a number of his friends and family members in attendance.

As Wood completed a scoreless ninth inning in Thursday night's 11-3 win over the Blue Jays, his mother, Carol, fought back tears and his father, Richard, forgot about the fact that as a lifelong Mets fan, he was supposed to despise anything related to the Braves.

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"There's nothing like it," Wood said. "I wish everybody could experience the feeling I had tonight at some point in their lives."

When the Braves made the decision late Wednesday night to promote Wood, the highly regarded pitching prospect called his parents, then informed Chance Veazey, his college roommate, with whom he had watched countless Braves games during their days at the University of Georgia.

Veazey was paralyzed when he was hit by a drunk driver during his freshman year. Although his playing days have been done for more than three years, he has continued to serve as an inspiration to Wood, Braves hitting coach Greg Walker and the countless others who have experienced his enthusiasm.

Before going to the outfield for batting practice on Thursday, Wood hugged Veazey, who was positioned directly in front of the Braves' dugout.

"Just walking out there for BP and having the view from on the field looking into the stands instead of in the stands looking on the field was just unbelievable," said Wood.

The Braves officially promoted Wood from Double-A Mississippi on Thursday afternoon, but Wood received word of the promotion while meeting with Mississippi manager Aaron Holbert late Wednesday. Just one year ago, the 22-year-old was completing his collegiate career and preparing for the First-Year Player Draft, during which the Braves would select him in the second round.

"It was just an unreal feeling," Wood said before Thursday's game. "I'm not usually at a loss for words, and I was last night. It was pretty special, for sure."

The addition of Wood and the corresponding move of designating Juan Francisco for assignment leave the Braves with a seven-man bullpen for the first time since May 17. They went 9-3 while using a six-man 'pen, and just one of those three losses could be pinned on the undermanned relief corps.

Jordan Walden's return from the disabled list on Wednesday, combined with Wood's arrival, seemingly strengthens the bullpen, with Walden, Wood and Luis Avilan appearing to be the top candidates to serve as closer Craig Kimbrel's primary setup men.

"You just kind of trust in the plan they have for me, and hopefully I'll be able to come help out the 'pen and become a guy for them," Wood said. "I'm excited to be here, and I'm excited for the opportunity the Braves have given me."

The Braves have been ecstatic about what they have seen from Wood and his unorthodox delivery since veteran scout Brian Bridges convinced the club to select him last year.

"He has quality stuff, and he has deception," general manager Frank Wren said. "I saw him throw a couple of weeks ago, and he did very well. We've all seen him good this spring, and he's handled himself well at that level. We've never been afraid to bring guys from Double-A."

Wood compiled a 2.22 ERA in 13 starts for Class A Rome last year, then opened lots of eyes during his first Major League Spring Training this year. While another top pitching prospect, J.R. Graham, was garnering attention with a fastball that sat at around 100 mph, Wood was making his own solid first impression while showing off the tremendous movement he generated with both his fastball and breaking ball.

After watching one of Wood's bullpen sessions, Kris Medlen shook his head and said, "Wood is legit."

"Going into Spring Training, I just wanted to kind of stay relevant and leave everyone with a good taste in their mouth every time they [saw me] throw, and I've been able to do that so far this year," Wood said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to continue to do that here in Atlanta and down the road."

Carrying some of the confidence he gained during Spring Training, Wood went 4-2 with a 1.26 ERA in 10 starts with Mississippi this year. He limited opponents to a .195 batting average and produced a 1.63 ground ball-to-fly ball ratio.

"It's absolutely unbelievable to think that this time last year, I was packing up some of my stuff from my house in Athens and heading back home getting ready for the Draft, and now I'm here in Atlanta a year later," he said. "It's storybook. It's hard to believe. I'm still kind of putting it together, just ready to get that first outing under my wings so I can get all this out of the way and go from there."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for

Atlanta Braves, Alex Wood