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BRAVES NOTEBOOK: Atlanta calls up top pitching prospect, ex-UGA star Wood; Rasmus, Francisco sent down

Braves top pitching prospect Alex Wood shined in Double-A Mississippi with a 1.26 ERA in 10 starts before being called up.

Braves top pitching prospect Alex Wood shined in Double-A Mississippi with a 1.26 ERA in 10 starts before being called up.

Reliever Rasmus on dismal major league stint that lasted just one week: ‘I need to be more aggressive’

ATLANTA — It was supposed to be a homecoming when Columbus natives Colby and Cory Rasmus played against each other in front of friends and family for the second time at Turner Field.

But just hours before the game, Cory Rasmus, 25, was at his locker in the Atlanta clubhouse packing for a trip to Syracuse with the Gwinnett Braves.

His first major-league stint lasted one week.

He was sent back to Triple-A when the Braves activated right-hander Jordan Walden from the disabled list and called up top pitching prospect Alex Wood. Cory struggled in his two outings, throwing 3 2-3 innings and giving up five runs and three home runs. He leaves with a 12.27 ERA.

“Even in this short time I’ve been here, I’ve learned a lot,” Rasmus said. “They hit (home runs) when you get behind in the count. I need to be more aggressive.”

His brother said he hated to see him go.

“That’s the nature of the beast,” Colby, an outfielder for the Toronto Blue Jays, said. “He’ll learn from his time here and get a boost from it.”

It wasn’t for as long as he had hoped, but the former Russell County High standout’s first promotion to Major League Baseball couldn’t have come at a better time.

Called up to play for the Atlanta Braves on May 22, Rasmus’ time in the big leagues included two games against Colby, including their first meeting Monday in Toronto. It marked just the third time since 1974 that two brothers that weren’t both pitchers faced each other.

Colby, 26, won the first duel with a sharply hit double into left field.

The fact that Cory Rasmus had a chance to be in the major leagues this early in the season or even at all came as a surprise to the right-handed pitcher and to his family.

Rasmus’ goal this season was to make the roster in September when the rosters for clubs can expand for the impending playoffs.

But make no mistake his goal always has been to be here, playing at the highest level, even when injury after injury forced those closest to him to question whether he should give up the dream.

The way their dad, former Russell County High School baseball coach Tony Rasmus, tells it, Cory always has been the best player in the family.

He hit the ball harder than brothers Colby, Cyle and Case, Tony said.

In 2005, when Colby broke Bo Jackson’s high school home run record, it was Cory that was leading the team with 12 home runs in 10 games — Colby had five — before he broke a bone in his left wrist.

A year later, after the first doctor told Cory to rest the hand, he fractured it again, Tony Rasmus said. This time he had surgery, and that forced Cory to take up pitching if he was ever to achieve his dream.

The Braves drafted Cory in the first round of the 2006 MLB draft. He missed the 2007 season after his first shoulder surgery. After missing some of the 2008 season, he played a few games of rookie ball but wasn’t considered a top prospect.

“It’s good to see him make it this far after almost everyone giving up on him,” Tony said. “Almost everyone did, but Cory didn’t. No matter what he never gave up, and he kept working.

“No doubts he’ll be back, and he’ll have a long career at it.”

ATLANTA — With their bullpen depleted by season-ending elbow injuries to left-handers Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty and taxed after covering seven innings behind Kris Medlen on Wednesday night, the Braves called on left-handed prospect Alex Wood.

Wood, the Braves’ second-round pick last year out of the University of Georgia, has been recalled from Double-A Mississippi and is joined the Braves’ bullpen Thursday in Atlanta before the series finale against the Blue Jays. As a result, reliever Cory Rasmus was sent down following a brief stint that featured a couple of rout outings (3 2/3 innings, five runs — including three HRs — and a 12.27 ERA)

Braves general manager Frank Wren said when O’Flaherty went on the disabled list two weeks ago the Braves had no immediate plans to call on Wood, saying they didn’t want to disrupt his development. But circumstances changed Wednesday night when Medlen left his start after only two innings with a left calf contusion.

The Braves went to a six-man bullpen two weeks ago when Jason Heyward returned from the disabled list, right around the same time an MRI revealed O’Flaherty’s ligament tear. They have managed going short in the bullpen without much issue since then, despite enduring three extra-inning games, one suspended game and four rain delays.

The Braves made room for Wood by releasing backup third baseman Juan Francisco, who was hitting just .241 with 43 strikeouts in 108 at-bats.

“It’s tough,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez told The Associated Press. “It’s a decision that wasn’t made over a two-minute conversation. It took a long time to process the whole deal. The good thing about this for Juan and also for us ... two or three clubs called on Juan. There’s a chance we trade him. There may be a possibility Juan gets to go to a major league club some place else.”

Wood, 22, impressed with his 93-95 mph fastball while allowing only one earned run in seven relief appearances with the major league club in spring training.

An unorthodox delivery probably kept Wood out of the first round of last year’s draft, but it hasn’t hindered his progress with the Braves. He was 4-2 with a 1.26 ERA in his first 10 starts for Double-A Mississippi this season, allowing two or fewer earned runs in nine of his 10 starts and three earned runs in the other. He was holding opponents to a .195 batting average, while striking out 57 in 57 innings and walking 15.

This is after Wood went 4-3 with a 2.22 ERA in 13 starts for Single-A Rome in his first professional season last year, with 52 strikeouts and 14 walks in 52 2/3 innings.

Wood, a 6-foot-4, 215-pound left-hander from Charlotte, N.C., was the 85th overall selection in the 2012 draft. He becomes the 36th former Bulldog to have reached the majors.

Wood went 13-10 with a 3.57 ERA in 30 career starts for the Bulldogs including a 7-3 record in 2012. His 2.73 ERA in 2012 was the best by a Georgia starter in 24 years, and he earned second team All-Southeastern Conference honors.

Wood joins infielder Gordon Beckham (Chicago White Sox), pitcher Mitchell Boggs (St. Louis), pitcher Josh Fields (Houston), pitcher Justin Grimm (Texas) and infielder Jeff Keppinger (Chicago White Sox) as former Bulldogs in the Major Leagues this season. Beckham and Fields, both currently injured, are due to come off the disabled list in June. Woods aims to become the second former Georgia standout to make his MLB debut this year after Fields made his on April 2.

MINOR EMERGING AS BRAVES’ ACE: There is no longer any question about who the ace of the Braves’ starting rotation is anymore.

Going into the season, there might have been a debate between Tim Hudson and Kris Medlen. It was the veteran Hudson who got the opening night start over Medlen.

Mike Minor wasn’t part of the discussion then. Now he is the only pitcher discussed.

The left-hander has proven that the second half of last season was no fluke. The Braves’ first-round pick in the 2009 draft is now the uncontested leader of the starting rotation.

Minor, who started Thursday night at home against Toronto, came in at 13-6 with a 2.32 ERA since the middle of last season. In his past 25 outings, 21 were quality starts.

It is hard to get much better than that.

The Braves need another quality start after being shut out, 3-0, by Toronto on Wednesday.

Minor struck out 10 while allowing three hit over 7 1/3 scoreless innings against the Mets in New York. That made him 6-2 this year and lowered his ERA to 2.42.

How good had Minor been?

Only the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw had a lower ERA since last July at 1.99. And Minor had limited opponents to a .196 batting average, second to the .187 against Kershaw.

With the start against the Blue Jays remaining, Minor’s May has come close to what he did last September.

The former Vanderbilt standout is 3-0 with a 1.85 ERA over five starts, registering 34 strikeouts to nine walks in 34 innings.

In the final month last year, Minor was 4-0 with a 0.87 ERA for five starts, posting 28 strikeouts to nine walks in 31 innings.

BEACHY BETTER: Beachy, coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery, allowed three hits over five scoreless innings for Class A Rome against visiting Charleston on Wednesday in his second minor league rehab start. He threw 68 pitches while striking out three and walking one. His command was better than in his first start last Friday, when he walked three and threw a wild pitch for Triple-A Gwinnett. If all goes well in his next three rehab starts, Beachy could return June 18 when the Braves have a makeup doubleheader with the New York Mets. He was leading the National League in ERA when he hurt his elbow last June.