The Braves made a move yesterday to avoid arbitration for the 2009 season with Mike Gonzalez by signing him to a one-year, $3.45 million contract. The Braves are looking for Gonzalez to serve as the closer for the 2009 season, filling a position that has lacked consistency and stability over the past few years. Last season alone, Soriano, Smoltz, Gonzalez and a host of other fill-ins took their shots at the role. While Gonzalez isn’t the true definition of a power closer, a constant figure in the position will prove well for the Braves.
After returning from Tommy John surgery in the middle of the 2008 season, Gonzalez had 14 saves in 16 opportunities while striking out 44 in his 33.2 innings pitched. Of a little concern however is the 6 home runs that he issued in that work as well. His 4.28 ERA last season isn’t exactly what you want to see out of a closer and hopefully this season he can get back around and under his career average of 2.62.
While returning from surgery last season, Gonzalez struggled to find the full strength in his arm at times, but is hoping to regain the consistency in his arm through his work this offseason and the upcoming preseason. He has always been a strikeout pitcher, with a 1.16 K per inning average and could prove to be a great asset down the stretch should the Braves continue to find themselves in the onslaught of one- and two-run games they did last season.
This leaves Casey Kotchman, Kelly Johnson and Jeff Francoeur as the only three remaining arbitration-eligible players. I’m hoping Gonzalez can pitch a consistent and injury-free season to help keep the bullpen on track. It seems that the Braves develop injury issues at the closer position every season and the pen slowly degrades from there. So are you happy to see Gonzalez locked in for the season to fill the closer role? Who takes the reins should he develop any injuries throughout the season?
Tags: Atlanta Braves Bullpen, Bullpen, Closer, Mike Gonzalez
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