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
Posted in Roster Moves | 24 Comments »
Back in February, I wrote a post called “5 Keys to 2008 Bullpen Success” and identified five points I thought would be crucial to have a successful bullpen. Let’s see how the bullpen has done compared to those five points.
#1 – Rafael Soriano is lights out as closer.
#2 – Peter Moylan eats up innings – and stays effective.
#3 – Will Ohman fills the left-handed setup role.
#4 – The emergence of an effective long-reliever.
#5 – The healthy return of Blaine Boyer and Mike Gonzalez.
Well, I got three out of five right. Ohman has been great, and Boyer and Gonzalez have been healthy, but Soriano hasn’t seen much time and Moylan is out recovering from Tommy John surgery.
And yet the Braves’ bullpen is one of the best in the NL – we have the third best ERA (3.22) and the best Batting Average Against (or BAA at .224). We’ve also give up the third fewest runs in the NL. Our BAA is second only to the Tampa Bay
This is thanks in no small part to Will Ohman, Blaine Boyer, and Manny Acosta. For the crap we give Bobby for over-using Acosta, Manny is a really good pitcher when he’s not overused. The return of Mike Gonzalez has been crucial to a stable back end of the ‘pen, and we should see that get even stronger as Rafael Soriano nears his return.
As we head into the second half of the season, our bullpen has to continue to impress to give us a chance for our hitting to win us some games. Based on what we’ve seen so far, I’d say we’re in a good spot and on a good track.
Who’s the most indispensable arm in the bullpen so far?
Edit: You just can’t make this stuff up…It seems Mike Hampton tweaked his hamstring after 2 IP in his latest rehab start, you just have to feel for the guy. He gave up one home run, no word on the severity of his injury yet. More details later.
Edit2: He tweaked his groin in the first inning and pitched a second, still no word on the severity, but said his super-surgically repaired arm felt great.
Tags: Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Braves Bullpen, Blaine Boyer, Bullpen, Manny Acosta, Mike Gonzalez, Peter Moylan, Rafael Soriano, Will Ohman
Posted in General | 12 Comments »