Wood Excited For The Next Step

Alex Wood is currently in big league camp

Left-hander Alex Wood, Atlanta's second round pick out of the University of Georgia last year, had a great debut season in 2012, going 4-3 with a 2.22 ERA and 52 strikeouts in 52 2/3 innings for the low-A Rome Braves. Currently spending his first Spring Training in big league camp, he says he can't help but be excited to take the next step in his development.

Not only did the southpaw hold opposing batters to a paltry .206 batting average last year, he did so after bypassing the short-season leagues entirely and jumping right into the South Atlantic League.

"I thought it went real well," he said of his debut season. "It was kind of an exciting time and a busy time after the draft.

"I went to mini-camp and they shot me straight to Rome, and it was definitely a good experience getting my feet wet and seeing what pro ball was all about. I thought personally I had some good successes and I'm excited to take that next step here [in 2013]."

He admits there was a bit of a learning curve going from the 7-day rotation in college to the five-man rotation at the professional level last year and all of the work entailed in between each professional start.

Still relatively new to the professional level, however, his in-game adjustments thus far have been limited to small tweaks here and there but they've already paid some pretty big dividends.

"They haven't really done too much with me [yet]," he said. "They usually leave the new guys alone until they see them a little bit but Derrick Lewis, the pitching coach in Rome, he was one of the best pitching coaches I've ever had.

"He helped me out with my breaking ball, something with my grip, and it really helped out my breaking ball. It progressed last summer. It got better and better. I never had really thrown a true breaking ball and that was probably my biggest adjustment, something that I changed.

"It wasn't a big adjustment but it was enough to start having me make more strides with my breaking ball and that was definitely big for me, and part of the reason why I had so much success last summer."

Throwing more of a true curveball for the first time in his life last summer and one that had developed into a real swing and miss pitch, Wood knew that to better prepare for what will be his first full season in 2013 meant he had to be able to withstand the physical rigors of a 142-game season so he took that task head-on this past offseason.

"I trained with two or three of my buddies that also went to [the University of] Georgia," he revealed. "We were training five days a week in the mornings with our old strength coach from Georgia.

"When it becomes your job and really becomes your life once you go to pro ball, that's really one of the most important things, get in there and hit the weights hard.

"When you're in there five days a week it's hard not to come back a little stronger or in better shape than you were before. It was definitely a good offseason for me and from that standpoint I'm as prepared as I can be."

Feeling stronger and better equipped stuff-wise after developing his curveball in his debut season a year ago, Wood says he still wants to take that next step in his development and that means bettering the breaking ball even more.

"The biggest thing for my first Spring Training is just taking the next step with my breaking ball and finding a little bit more consistency," he admitted. "I'm pretty lucky to be around some of these big leaguers down here in big league camp and that's definitely going to be a big part of my development and growth, seeing how they go about their business and just trying to pick up some tips, seeing how they go about facing these more patient and better hitters.

"Once I face these guys in games that will be a big step for me from where I was last summer in Rome and I'm just excited for the challenge. I'm ready to learn how to go about certain pitches in certain counts against different guys."

Beyond excited about being in big league camp that started last Tuesday, especially considering just a year ago he was still pitching in SEC games, he plans on picking the brains of his big league counterparts and becoming sponge-like with all sorts of information.

"I definitely feel real blessed to be here with these guys," he said. "You can always learn stuff from guys at that level that have been through the ringer in the minors.

"I'm pretty lucky that my first Spring Training the majority of the time will be spent in big league camp. It's definitely an exciting time for me, for sure."

With the great success that he had in his debut season last year and the confidence he built up doing it at a higher minor league level than most first-year players, Wood can't help but be excited about the prospects of being a much better pitcher by the time big league camp has ended and his first full season has begun.

"I'm the type of person who believes you can always get better. I'm looking for that growth from a mental and a pitching philosophy aspect. You can always do those things better and be fine-tuning the things you've already learned. I feel like right now the sky is the limit.

"There's just been a whole new world opened up to me of the things that I can learn knowledge-wise and mentality-wise, and I feel like the knowledge you get from that it only helps bring the physical part of it better.

"That's what I'm really excited about because it almost feels like I'm a newborn -- I'm ready to take my whole game to a whole new level just being around these big league guys and around the great staff the Braves have. That's the most exciting part, being able to be around them and learn as much as I can.

"Those older guys know things that I've never talked about and when you can get a feel from them about what it takes to get to the next level or the things that they do to help get guys out the sky's the limit for sure," he concluded.

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