Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said in late May that his club would inevitably need another starter because no team is fortunate enough to keep its rotation intact all season. That starter is now Alex Wood.
To limit his workload, the Braves moved Wood to the bullpen in early May after he began the year as a starter. He made 11 appearances as a reliever before Atlanta sent him down to Triple-A Gwinnett. When Gavin Floyd hit the disabled list with an elbow injury last week, Wood got the call. He's expected to throw 90-95 pitches on Wednesday.
"I wish they would just turn me loose. But I'm sure they'll keep an eye on me and see how it goes and see how many stressful situations we get into," Wood said. "Hopefully, not a lot."
On Wednesday, Wood will face Collin McHugh and the Astros in the second game of a three-game series.
Wood, the Braves' second-round pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, was lights out as a starter to begin this season. He posted a 1.54 ERA, .220/.262/.309 opponents' slash line and five K/BB ratio in his first five outings. As a reliever, Wood sported a 4.70 ERA and .302/.362/.444 opponents' slash line.
McHugh, meanwhile, has been a nice surprise for the Astros. The 27-year-old has a 2.76 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 2.88 K/BB ratio in 11 starts this season.
On Thursday, McHugh allowed two unearned runs, four hits and three walks while fanning six over six innings. The Rays shut out the Astros, so McHugh took his fifth loss of the year.
"Collin did a tremendous job," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "Great job attacking the zone with his fastball, had the sharpness to his breaking ball back again tonight."
McHugh was born in Naperville, Ill., but spent most of his childhood in Georgia. He grew up a diehard Braves fan, especially fond of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.
"The big three," McHugh said. "If you're a pitcher from the Atlanta-area growing up in the '90s, it was like the greatest time to watch baseball. One of my buddies is a big Braves fan, he's coming in town. It'll be a good time."
Braves: Timetable for Floyd's return likely to be announced on Wednesday
Thirteen months after performing Tommy John surgery, Dr. David Altchek will perform another procedure on Gavin Floyd's right elbow on Wednesday morning. A timetable for the pitcher's return should be announced in the following hours.
Floyd will get screws inserted in his elbow to help repair the broken olecranon the right-hander suffered while pitching against the Nationals on Thursday.
In the seventh inning of that game, the righty felt his elbow pop after throwing a curveball to Jayson Werth.
"It was fine until that last pitch," Floyd said. "I felt a pop. And it wasn't painful, at least."
Astros: Fields making progress
After going on the 15-day disabled list with soreness in his throwing forearm on Sunday, right-hander Josh Fields said he's been making progress.
Fields was removed from Saturday's game while warming up to throw in the top of the ninth inning when he felt the discomfort. Fields said the move to the disabled list was precautionary. On Tuesday, he was just as optimistic.
"I've been playing some light catch and just taking it day by day to see how I respond," Fields said. "I don't feel bad. I feel like I've been making good progress."
In 28 games this year, Fields has a 1-4 record with a 5.93 ERA. In his last 14 outings, however, he went 1-1 with a 1.17 ERA.
• The Astros will open the gates to Minute Maid Park early on Thursday to accommodate fans who want to watch the World Cup match between the United States and Germany.
The gates will open at 10:30 a.m. CT for season-ticket holders and 11 a.m. for the rest of the public, when the match begins, and it will be played on the scoreboard through batting practice until pregame videos have to be shown. The Astros' series finale against the Braves is scheduled to start at 1:10 p.m. CT.
Steven Petrella is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.