Today we bring you part two of the 2009 bullpen preview. In case you missed part one yesterday, here it is. We’re looking at the guys duking it out in Spring Training for the last couple of spots in the bullpen this year.
Jeff Bennett was an indispensable part of the Braves’ pitching staff last season, serving in every imaginable role. He started several games, and converted 3 of 4 save opportunities. He pitched in long relief, and was frequently used an inning at a time. And with a hard sinker as his best pitch, he was sometimes called on to pitch to a single hitter in double-play situations. Despite the lack of a predictable role, he performed admirably, finishing the year with a 3.70 ERA (3.12 as a reliever). His solid body of work in 08′, combined with his versatility, may give him an edge in the battle for a spot in the Braves’ bullpen.
Jorge Campillo spent most of last season in Atlanta’s starting rotation, but was outstanding in his 21.2 innings of relief, allowing only 3 earned runs out of the bullpen. He is unlikely to retain his job in the rotation, and will probably find himself battling for a job in the ‘pen’. As with Jeff Bennett, Campillo offers the Braves flexibility. He can pitch in long or short relief, and can be called on to start in a pinch.
Phil Stockman is a fascinating possible addition to the big league club. When healthy, Stockman has dominated minor league hitters over the past few seasons. And I do mean DOMINATED. Since the start of the 2006 season, the 6′ 8″ Australian righty has pitched 109 innings at the A, AA, and AAA levels, posting a 1.57 ERA. Not to mention 126 strikeouts in those 109 innings. Stockman had a cup of coffee with the Atlanta Braves in 2006, and again last season. In 11.1 big league innings, he has recorded 13 strikeouts, and allowed only 1 earned run. The downside… his control can be erratic, and he is injury prone. Stockman is out of options, so the Braves must either add him to the 25-man roster this spring, or trade him. But if he is healthy this spring, his potential may prove too great for the Braves to pass over.
Buddy Carlyle earned a place in Bobby Cox’s heart after his surprise contributions to the team during the 2007 season. The veteran journeyman was very effective in the long-relief role for the Braves, finishing the year with a 3.59 ERA over 62.2 innings of work. Carlyle certainly pitched well enough last year to earn a job in the 09′ bullpen. But with so many options and some tough decisions ahead, I’ll be surprised if Carlyle wears an Atlanta Braves uniform this year.
Eric O’Flaherty will compete with Boone Logan and Jeff Ridgeway for the “situational lefty” position in the Atlanta ‘pen’. He started the 08′ season in that very role for the Seattle Mariners, but was optioned to “AA” just two weeks into the season after a rough start. The Braves claimed him off waivers over the winter after he was dropped from the Mariners’ 40-man roster. Braves officials are hopeful that O’Flaherty, who features a mid-90′s fastball and a biting slider, will respond to a change of scenery and recapture the form that once made him a top-prospect in the Mariners’ organization.
Boone Logan was “the other guy” acquired by the Braves in the deal that brought Javier Vazquez to Atlanta. MLB’s Mark Bowman recently reported that the Braves are “excited about Logan’s potential”. He added that the 24-year-old left-handed reliever “posted a 5.95 ERA in 55 inconsistent appearances this past season. In his first 36 appearances [last] season, Logan posted a 1.95 ERA and limited opponents to a .223 batting average.” However, he struggled over his next 12 appearances, and lost his job on the big league roster.
Jeff Ridgway was one of two players the Braves acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for Willy Ayabar prior to last season. After 10 productive outings with the Braves last year (3.72 ERA), the lefty earned a chance to compete for a big league bullpen job this spring.
STRENGTHS: Assuming reasonably good health, the Braves bullpen essentially has three dominant closers (Gonzalez, Soriano, Moylan) at their disposal. I’m not sure any other team in baseball can say the same. They also have two other young relievers (Acosta, Boyer) with “closer’s stuff”, and tremendous overall depth. A more durable starting rotation will further add to the strength of this bullpen by removing the undue burden placed on it last season.
WEAKNESSES: While everyone appears healthy, the Braves will be dependent upon three surgically repaired arms at the end of their bullpen. Also, the departure of Ohman leaves Atlanta without a proven left-handed middle-reliever.
BEST-CASE SCENARIO: If healthy, it is not hyperbole to say the Braves could have the best bullpen in baseball. And if Boyer & Acosta take a step forward, along with good health, this could be the best bullpen in either league by a significant margin.
WORST-CASE SCENARIO: Please see 2008.
So with that in mind, who do you see taking the final couple of spots in the bullpen this year and what roles will they best serve?
Tags: Boone Logan, Buddy Carlyle, Bullpen, Eric O'Flaherty, Jeff Bennett, Jeff Ridgway, Jorge Campillo, Phil Stockman
Posted in General | 2 Comments »
Jair Jurrjens is doing his best Mike Hampton imitation.
Not only is Jurrjens left handed, but he fell walking down the dugout stairs last night after the Braves’ loss to the Cubs and sprained his ankle. His ankle did not get better overnight and he’ll miss today’s start. The Braves and Jurrjens hope he doesn’t have to head to the DL to join the rest of the Braves’ pitching staff.
Jurrjens has been perhaps the Braves’ most solid starter this season – not missing a start – until tonight. Jurrjens’ right ankle will hopefully heal up before his next start, but with the way things have been going, we may just want to go ahead and promote the entire AAA pitching staff.
The Braves also confirmed that Charlie Morton is likely to start Sunday against the Angels in a game televised by ESPN. Jeff Bennett is stepping in for the Braves tonight.
Frank Wren was quoted as saying “I feel like I’m in the twilight zone.”
Don’t we all, Frank. What’s next? Does anyone have Hudson in the “next Brave to miss a start” pool?
Tags: Charlie Morton, Frank Wren, Jair Jurrjens, Jeff Bennett
Posted in Injuries | 25 Comments »
This rotation can’t win the division.
There, I said it. With John Smoltz and his bum shoulder pushing him to the bullpen (hopefully if he can heal), our starting rotation looks a wee bit tattered. Think I’m kidding? Take a look at the starting rotation. Hudson has been the Ace so far, with six wins. Jurrjens has been great with four wins and 41 strikeouts in eight starts. And then we have Glavine, who is better than his record shows, deserving better than a 1-1 record, but concerning with a 4.41 ERA and a 1-1 strikeout to walk ratio.
Past that, it’s not a rotation. It’s a random weekly game of bingo that decides between Chuck James, Jo-Jo Reyes, and Jeff Bennett and they rotate out as soon as one of them sucks it up. And it’s not something that will let us compete into September. At least Chuck’s out of the consideration for now, but that just leaves room for another Joe Somebody to try.
We had depth, supposedly. But Smoltz has had shoulder issues – and he’s had those sporadically at the end of the season in seasons past. And I can’t even discuss what happened to Hampton without feeling like I’d be suggesting he could heal. And until he proves me wrong, I won’t believe it’s a possibility. But can we make it to September? I’m doubtful. Something has to be done.
Sure, we’re first in the league in ERA and BAA, and second in OPS allowed and third in WHIP, but does that mean jack diddly when we have three starters? It won’t last long, I tell you. We’ll miss Smoltz as long as his shoulder keeps him pitching two innings late in the game. We need a strong starter. And unless Jo-Jo Reyes can keep it up and start pitching like he pitches in AAA ball, where there’s less pressure, or Jeff Bennett turns a page for the rest of the season, we’ll be a team with three consistent starters and two fillers. It concerns me.
Do we make a move? We have tons of young outfielders in the minor league system. Do we bring up Charlie Morton from AAA and see if he is ready for the big time? I’m just an armchair GM, sure, but I’m not the only one in Atlanta who is a little concerned about our rotation.
Tags: Charlie Morton, Chuck James, Jair Jurrjens, Jeff Bennett, Jo-Jo Reyes, John Smoltz, Mike Hampton, Tim Hudson, Tom Glavine
Posted in General | 25 Comments »
When the Braves started the season, it seemed as if their impenetrable depth in the starting pitching spot would be their greatest strength. Now, heading into the second half of May, it has already become a weakness. Yes, I know we lead the league in starter’s ERA, but it’s a very deceiving stat in that our starters have only pitched 225 innings, 14th in the NL (St. Louis leads the league with 266.1 and Philly comes in second at 256.0 for comparisons).
Does that take away anything from our accomplishment so far? Not necessarily. It does, however, bring about the question of how long can the bullpen keep up their routine. Yes, eventually Smoltz, Soriano and Gonzalez will return and give us probably the best finishers in the league, but until then? And what about after that? What happens to our middle relief? Acosta, Boyer, Ohman and the others can only go so far. Especially Acosta, who has never pitched a full season in the majors and may hit a wall.
Going back to the starters. At the beginning the season, the Braves touted one of the deepest starting pitching crops of any team in the majors and looked to be getting back to their old ways of being the pitching premium. Smoltz, Hudson, Glavine, Jurrjens, Hampton, James, Reyes, Carlyle and Bennett among others that were potential starters.
Smoltz went down in spring training with a shoulder injury that never really fully recovered, and may not. It’s an injury that will linger throughout the season. For Smoltz, though, the option of pitching out of the bullpen is still there and will probably become a reality. This will reduce the stress he puts on his shoulder as well as allow him time to recover between appearances.
And then our boy Hampton tries to go up the stairs without his bubble-wrap suit and yeah…gets hurt (kidding, he actually strained a pectoral muscle warming up in cold weather and strained it again on the 71st pitch of a rehab game). Thankfully, the Braves had options at that point.
Chuck James, a veteran with options who has won 10 games in each of the past two seasons as well as Jojo Reyes and Jeff Bennett. Bennett has been a solid replacement. Three times spot starting, all of his starts have been solid. Unfortunately, only one of those was a “quality start” (6 or more innings pitched, three or less earned runs allowed). For the Braves to be successful in the long run, quality starts are important. Two of last seasons top three quality starters (Huddy and Glavine) are in the rotation, while the other (Smoltzy) is moving to the bullpen. The AJC reported today that Bennett may be a potential replacement for James in the rotation. Updated: Campillo to get the start in James’ place in game 2 against the Mets.
Carlyle is sitting on the DL with a strained neck after running into a runner against San Diego. Jojo Reyes has been both solid and bad at times. Against San Diego, he gave up two runs, but walked two in 2 2/3 innings and had thrown 51 pitches to that point. Against Philly last Friday, Reyes cruised through the first three innings with no trouble. But really struggled with the middle of the order the second and third times around and ended up giving up five runs in 5 1/3 innings.
The Braves are truly lucky to be sitting where they are, and with no one having run away with the division to this point, the Braves are primed for a run. Both Gonzalez and Soriano should be back before the end of the month and Smoltz not too far behind. Reyes is getting adjusted to the majors and Bennett/Campillo could be a solid tail end of the rotation. With the way John Schuerholz and Frank Wren prepared this team, they had injury problems at the front of their mind and truly did a strong job of getting together the right personnel to keep this team afloat.
Tags: Buddy Carlyle, Jeff Bennett, Jo-Jo Reyes, John Smoltz, Jorge Campillo, Mike Gonzalez
Posted in General | 4 Comments »
With Peter Moylan on the brink of season ending reconstructive surgery, we here at BravesBlast thought it would be a good idea to profile the surgery itself as well as some of the Braves that have had the surgery: the list isn’t short.
The surgery itself was developed in 1974 when the now infamous Tommy John developed a pain in his elbow as well as a noticeable drop in velocity. After tests, Dr. Frank Jobe diagnosed John with a torn UCL, ulnar collateral ligament. The UCL is the ligament in the elbow that connects the upper arm bone (humerus) to the ulna and radius of the forearm.
At the time, there was no reconstruction and recovery procedure for the injury and pitchers that suffered from a torn or “compromised” (like Moylan) ligament were doomed to sit out the rest of their days. Dr. Frank Jobe decided to try a new, unheard of procedure on John. He hypothesized that if he could use a tendon from another part of the body (most likely the arm or leg) and attach it to the elbow, it would grow into a ligament. Jobe tried the procedure but had to wait an entire year to witness the results of the surgery.
Jobe was delighted to see that the surgery was a success. John went on to a 10-10 record in his first season back, 1976. John went on to pitch 13 more seasons in the bigs and compiled a 288-231 record and had a 3.34 career ERA.
With John being the first to successfully complete a rehab from the UCL surgery, the reconstructive procedure took on his name and to this day is considered a pitcher’s best friend.
Now as far as its ties to the Braves go, several pitchers on our staff have had the surgery already:
John Smoltz – In 1999 Smoltzie started throwing with a side-arm and three quarters-arm delivery. I don’t know if this is what caused the UCL tear or if he pitched that way because of arm troubles, but it was fairly effective. Smoltz went 11-8 with a 3.19 ERA. Smoltz pretty much lost all or part of five years with the surgery as a starter. It’s probably that he would be a 300 game winner, or at least within reach of the milestone. But there’s another one he can get to at this point: 200 saves.
Mike Hampton – Wow…what more is there to say about Hampton. He was off to what looked like a career year for the Braves before having fore-arm soreness in May on 2005. He made one more start that year towards the end, before electing to have the procedure. He sat out all of 2006 rehabbing from the injury, but unfortunately tore another ligament in the same elbow.
Rafael Soriano – Soriano was supposed to be a great relief pitcher for the Mariners. He struck out 68 in 53 innings in 2004 with a 1.53 ERA, but had to have the surgery late in 2004. He pitched well in 2006, but had to sit out the last month with a severe concussion after getting hit with a line drive in the head. The Braves then traded for him and he has had mixed success in his time with the Braves. Luckily the MRI on Soriano’s elbow came back negative for anything serious.
Jorge Campillo – Campillo also pitched for the Mariners (what is with us and getting players from AL west teams, a few from the A’s and a couple from the Mariners and one big one from the Rangers). He debuted in 2005, but quickly required the surgery after just two appearances. He was released after rehabbing because the team was not pleased with his progress. He signed with the Braves this past offseason and has been a great addition to the roster.
Jeff Bennett – Bennett pitched one season with the Brewers going 1-5 in 60 appearances. Bennett required the surgery in 2006 after spending 2005-06 in the minors. Bennett signed with the Braves after the 2006 season and spent much of 2007 in the minors. During the September call-ups, Bennett proved he could pitch in the majors and won a spot as the long-reliever/spot starter in spring training.
Among other pitchers in the Braves organization, Anthony Lerew underwent the surgery after two starts last season and is currently rehabbing.
Kelly Johnson also underwent the surgery after a tear on a throw from the outfield during the 2005 season. Braves personnel decided to shift him to second base (he was originally drafted as a short stop) to avoid any further injuries to his arm. He sat out the entire 2006 season, but has returned the Braves lineup as an asset as the leadoff man.
With more and more pitchers electing to get this surgery on a regular basis, it poses the question, “what’s the best way to pitch?” Pitchers get hurt pitching overhand, side arm, whatever. Is there really a perfect way to pitch to avoid injuries? So far Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux may be the best examples of two pitchers that have avoided pitching-related injuries for as long as they have.
Tags: Anthony Lerew, Greg Maddux, Jeff Bennett, John Smoltz, Jorge Campillo, Kelly Johnson, Mike Hampton, Rafael Soriano, Tom Glavine, Tommy John
Posted in Injuries | 2 Comments »
The Marlins (12-8) are back in town for a two-game series against the Braves (10-10) today and tomorrow before we head off to New York for a weekender against the Mets. Surprising to pretty much Everyone, 20 games into the season and the Marlins still find themselves perched atop the NL East standings, but I doubt we’ll see them there too terribly much longer. The Mets, Phillies and Braves are all within a half-game of each other and sitting close behind.
Jeff Bennett (0-0) takes the mound again tonight looking for a little more run support than John Smoltz got in his terrific outing last night. He’ll face off against Andrew Miller (0-2) who has struggled thus far this season, landing an ERA over 9 to this point. It would be nice if the offense could get on him early tonight and keep that trend continuing. It would be nice if we could stick to just one loss and get another win streak going tonight.
Tags: Andrew Miller, Florida Marlins, Jeff Bennett
Posted in Game Threads | 73 Comments »
So the Braves have a much needed day off today as they make the trip to Florida to play the Marlins, who have flown out of the gates this year to get off to a great start to the season. Hopefully the Braves will make a good run at stopping that. But either way, I wanted to take the off day to make some commentary about the season thus far and things that are on my mind.
The Season Thus Far - It hasn’t been the best start to the season thus far as far as the record is concerned. We’re 5-7 at this point, but there’s still plenty of time to get things going. Six of our losses have been by one run, so we’ve been in most of the games and not eliminated early.
Leadoff Runners – We don’t get nearly enough leadoff base runners from our offense. It seems like every time that we put someone on base, it’s with two outs. Likewise, we give up way too many leadoff base runners to our opposition. We need to swing that a little more in our direction.
Jeff Bennett – I liked the guy……..until yesterday. I know Glavine took the loss in the game yesterday, but in my personal scoring system, I’m giving it to Bennett. There’s never any excuse to walk four straight batters and definitely never an excuse to give up two runs on walks.
Jorge Campillo – I still don’t know much about him, but I know I liked what I saw yesterday. I think if he can keep that up steadily through the season, then there’s no reason he shouldn’t find a full-time position in our bullpen.
Starting Pitching – Nevermind, I don’t want to get into our endless list of injuries to our starters. Hampton, Glavine, Smoltz…….it could be a long year.
Clutch Offense - So we can score endless runs when we’re up in a game (which is good with the condition of our bullpen at times), but it seems like when we need the hits and the runs, we just can’t do it. I attribute this to our slew of one-run losses so far this season.
I’ve got a few more things on my mind, but these are just the pressing ones for now. I don’t like off days. I feel like there’s nothing to keep up with, but the team definitely needs it. I’m ready to watch Jair start tomorrow against the Marlins. What’d I miss?
Tags: Jeff Bennett, Jorge Campillo, Off Day
Posted in General | 5 Comments »
Wow, that hurts.
Losing a game always does, but moreso when you are behind a run in the ninth with bases loaded and you just can’t get it done.
The Braves finished their first three-game series in DC this season taking the first two and stumbling through the final one following Tom Glavine’s abrupt first inning departure. It was obvious Tommy didn’t have his stuff early on. The last time we saw him was the home opener against Pittsburgh and he was classic Tommy, going five solid innings. In DC today, he struggled early on and it was obvious he was in pain. He left and it was reported he had a strained right hamstring, the severity of which, we aren’t sure of.
Bennett came in and had an “uneven” showing , allowing three earned runs in four innings. Not to mention, he walked four straight batters and walked in two runs as a result. After him, our bullpen gave us some very respectable work from Campillo, Resop, and Boyer.
The bright spot of the day, as relates to pitching? It has to be Campillo. He shut the door on six straight batters and certainly looked major league-ready.
Chipper’s 2-run homer and some smart base-running, and a late inning rally gave us hope for a come-from-behind win. But, alas, too little, too late.
- 2 out of 3 on the road
- 4 hits from the bullpen
- Got a break on McCann tagging out the runner
- Jorge Campillo!
- Escobar shows some discipline and gets walked twice
- McCann/Johnson/Diaz: all three 0-4 at the plate
- Bennett, 2 runs on 4 straight walks
- Losing another 1-run game.
Now, we head down to a warmer climate and face the Florida Marlins. The fish are doing great offensively, but may just have the worst rotation in the majors. Hopefully, we can capitalize on that and get another series in the books.
Also, keep your fingers crossed and your prayers going that Tommy’s hammy isn’t that bad.
Tags: Chipper Jones, Jeff Bennett, Jorge Campillo, Tom Glavine, Washington Nationals
Posted in Game Analysis | 5 Comments »
After last night’s loss to Cleveland, the Braves further thinned out their roster, getting ready for Sunday’s game against the Washington Nationals. Of course the most notable moves involved the ongoing battles for the limited number of backup spots on the roster.
Brent Lillibridge, impressive as he was in the first half of the spring, got sent back to AAA Richmond, where he’ll get more playing time. I think this is crucial, since either he or Escobar will likely be trade bait before too long. He needs to be playing all the time. Martin Prado gets to stay in Atlanta – his first time starting the season in the majors. Joining Prado (who played a few innings last night at first, by the way) is new acquisition Ruben Gotay, a switch-hitting contact hitter who can play second, third, and short.
In the outfield, Gregor Blanco beat out Josh Anderson for the backup job. Anderson got out-hit by Blanco this spring (.260 to .341) and despite his speed, Bobby couldn’t find a roster spot for him. I like Anderson though – if we have an issue mid-season with Diaz or Kotsay I’m sure we’ll see him (maybe even before Schafer, whom they might want to groom all season long).
Behind the plate, Corky Miller seems to have the backup job. Brayan Pena is still on the roster too, but he’s out of options and conventional wisdom says he’s traded by the end of the day. If Pena sticks around, he can pitch in at first as well.
So that leaves the five bench spots going to Blanco (OF), Gotay (IF), Prado (IF), Pena (C/1B) and Miller (C). I’m not sure what we’ll see happen if Pena is traded – maybe Anderson comes back up?
The Bullpen is finally solid, with slots going to Peter Moylan, Rafael Soriano, Manny Acosta, Will Ohman, Chris Resop, Royce Ring, and Blaine Boyer. I like this year’s ‘pen. Lots of arms who have the capacity to be good pitchers throughout the season.
Jeff Bennett and Buddy Carlyle are still fighting for the pitching slot left vacant by Smoltzie, who will start the season on the DL (it’ll be backdated and he’ll only miss one start). I’d give the edge to Bennett in this one – he’s been impressive, but Carlyle hasn’t put together a bad spring himself.
More as we hear it – our ears are to the ground today as we wait for the final moves to be made.
Tags: Blaine Boyer, Brayan Pena, Brent Lillibridge, Buddy Carlyle, Chris Resop, Corky Miller, Gregor Blanco, Jeff Bennett, Josh Anderson, Manny Acosta, Martin Prado, Peter Moylan, Rafael Soriano, Royce Ring, Ruben Gotay, Will Ohman
Posted in Roster Moves | No Comments »
Mark Teixeira blasted a 2 run home run to lead the Braves’ offense to a 10-2 win over the Nationals today. Jeff Bennett got the start and pitched four scoreless innings, another encouragement of a bit of depth this year in the rotation.
The rest of the Braves’ infield got a piece of the action as well – Escobar and Timmons knocked in a run each, McCann got his RBI, Lillibridge knocked in two, and Prado added three. Lillibridge and Prado are making the last bit of spring interesting as they battle for the backup infield slot. If I had to guess, I’d say Prado has the upper hand because Lillibridge would benefit from playing full-time in Richmond. Either he or Yunel is going to become trade bait before too long.
Will Ohman got the win, despite giving up the Nationals’ only two runs in his inning of work, in which he gave up three hits. Soriano, Moylan, Acosta, and Ridgway all added a scoreless inning of their own on the mound, though they each walked one and struck out nobody.
Good to see the Braves’ offense moving heading into the season. I’m glad Tex had a big day – he’s had a slow start and I for one want him to have the biggest contract year anyone’s ever had. And then I want to re-sign him.
Tags: Brent Lillibridge, Brian McCann, Jeff Bennett, Mark Teixeira, Martin Prado, Preseason, Will Ohman, Yunel Escobar
Posted in Game Analysis | No Comments »
For most of the day Friday, the Braves pitching staff looked solid. Using a strong start by Jeff Bennett (in substitution for John Smoltz) and two hitless innings from Blaine Boyer to finish the game, the Braves allowed only 4 hits and 0 runs in 8 innings of work. Unfortunately for the Braves, all 9 innings count.
That other inning of work for th Braves went to Ryan Drese who struggled to find control for his entire outing. Facing 11 batters in his one inning, Drese issued 6 walks, 1 hit and 6 earned runs, creating the 6-4 loss for the Braves. At one point, Drese issued 5 consecutive walks, certainly cementing his place in the minor leagues to start the season.
In a game of few highlights for the Braves, Jeff Francoeur looks to have bounced back from being beaned in the face early in the week, going 2-3 and scoring a run. As we enter the last week of the preseason, it’s good to see everyone getting into regular season form.
Tags: Cleveland Indians, Jeff Bennett, Jeff Francoeur, Preseason, Ryan Drese
Posted in Game Analysis | No Comments »