SF@ATL: Wood fans seven in five strong frames

ST. LOUIS -- For a few hours earlier this week, Alex Wood was scheduled to be the Braves starter Saturday against the Cardinals.

That was when Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez considered going with a six-man rotation. But less than 24 hours later, after consulting with pitching coach Roger McDowell, Gonzalez decided to stick with a five-man rotation, which kept Wood in the bullpen.

"It's one of those things that it's kind of what's best for us right now," Wood said. "With [Jordan Walden] banged up, they need a little help in the 'pen. We've got six guys including myself who are throwing the ball pretty well. It's just one of those things that work out for the betterment of the team and that's what I'm doing right now, and I've got no problem with it."

Wood has started seven games this season and has a 3-5 record with a 3.26 ERA. A run support victim, the Braves have scored just one run twice and were shut out three times in five of his seven starts.

Gonzalez believes the 23-year-old lefty's future is as a starter, but that isn't where the club needs him right now.

"It will take care of itself," Gonzalez said. "Sooner or later somebody is going to need a breather and you plug him right back in there. And you have a conversation with him and you lay it on the table with him and say this is what we want to do and this also helps our club. It makes us better with you in the bullpen right now. I think it helps him being a young player. You can't do that with a veteran guy."

Wood said coming out of the bullpen is more of a mental thing. He has to be ready every day, instead of knowing when his spot is coming up in the rotation. Wood can also rely on his stuff more, since he doesn't have to maneuver through a lineup multiple times.

"It's one of those things where it's early in my career and right now we have an immediate need in the bullpen," Wood said. "Hopefully, I'll be able to continue to fill that role and fill that need and help us win ballgames right now because there's no time like the present."

After long layoff, Kimbrel gets in some work

CHC@ATL: Kimbrel fans Valbuena to end the game

ST. LOUIS -- After nearly a week off, Craig Kimbrel tossed a scoreless eighth inning in Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Cardinals, striking out one batter.

Kimbrel, the Braves' closer, hadn't seen action in six days. A combination of situation and non-save opportunities created the break, but manager Fredi Gonzalez didn't want Kimbrel to get rusty.

"He's going to pitch," Gonzalez said before Saturday's game. "Six days today and we've got to get him in the game today. Hopefully, it is a save situation. Hopefully, we score 100 runs and give him an inning, but we've got to get him in the game."

Kimbrel's last appearance was May 10 when he picked up his 10th save of the season against the Cubs. Kimbrel stuck out two and walked one in the outing.

The next night, David Carpenter picked up the save as the Braves completed the sweep against Chicago. Gonzalez wanted to give Kimbrel that night off because he had pitched in back-to-back games.

Since then, a save situation hasn't presented itself in the San Francisco series or against the Cardinals on Friday.

"He throws a bullpen, he throws sides every once in a while, but there comes a time when you've got to get him in a game whether it is a save situation or where there isn't a save situation," Gonzalez said. "Not only him, but any pitcher. You don't want him to go a bunch of days without pitching."

Kimbrel's 149 career saves puts him at second all-time for the Braves. He just needs five more to tie John Smoltz's club record of 154.

Worth noting

Tyler Pastornicky is on a three-game hitting streak. He is 4-for-10 during that span with a two runs scored and one RBI hitting out of the Braves' nine-hole.

• Braves starter Aaron Harang hasn't beaten the Cardinals since May 9, 2009, when he was a member of the Cincinnati Reds. Harang, who is 4-3 with a 2.98 ERA this season, lost to the Cardinals on May 5, giving up two runs over six innings in a 4-3 loss.

• The Braves Triple-A affiliate, the Gwinnett Braves, swept a doubleheader yesterday against Buffalo. Gwinnett won the first game 4-1 and took the second game 9-3. Tommy La Stella went 2-for-3 and scored three runs for the Braves.