At the beginning of spring training, the Atlanta Braves thought they had the best bullpen in baseball. If the starting pitchers could go six innings with a win, then O’Ventbrel (Eric O’Flaherty, Johnny Venters, and Craig Kimbrel) would come in to finish of the win 95% of the time. This would make the Braves pay a six inning game, as those three are nearly unhittable.
Unfortunately, two of those three have landed on the disabled list, and at least one being out for the remainder of the season with Tommy John Surgery (Venters). The Braves also have Jordan Walden, another shutdown reliever, on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation, but GM Frank Wren expects him to be back within a week. Luis Ayala, who was traded from Baltimore in April, has also hit the disabled list with an anxiety disorder. Ayala is a formidable bullpen arm, who is extremely tough on lefties and was likely acquired to help make up for the loss of Venters.
With the injuries to the above, where does this leave the Braves bullpen? Cory Gearrin and Luis Avilan will be called upon to be the set-up men for the Braves leading up to Craig Kimbrel. Entering this season, they had a combined amount of 75 innings pitched in their major league career. The youngsters have proven valuable during their short stint, but are they ready to have a role as big as the 8th inning to preserve a lead? Time will tell, but the scariest part of the bullpen is the 7th inning and earlier.
Anthony Vavarro will likely be the 6th/7th inning specialist. His stat line is impressive so far, but regression is bound to happen to the 28-year-old. He also has minimal MLB experience, but he has a better track record than David Carpenter and Cary Rasmus, who was called up to replace Eric O’Flaherty.
Rasmus has always been thought of as a good bullpen arm, and his stats for Gwinnett prove that. Unfortunately, he is a rookie and shouldn’t be counted on for immediate success with the Braves. I would have never thought that he or David Carpenter would be pitching meaningful games for the braves this year, but it looks as though that may happen.
As stated earlier, Jordan Walden is expected to be back by next week and Luis Ayala has already begun a rehab assignment. The Braves bullpen has a completely new look without the likes of Venters and O’Flaherty in the fold, and it was completely unexpected. I still think the bullpen will be okay, but late-inning leads will be less protected with the new-look bullpen the Braves have for the time being. Everyone has their fingers crossed that O’Flaherty will not need Tommy John Surgery, but a visit to Dr. James Andrews looms in the future. The bullpen was a key part to the Braves planned success this year, but it could soon turn into their greatest vulnerability.
Tweet of the Night
Tonight’s tweet of the night comes from MLB’s Braves beat writer Mark Bowman, who talks about Capuano’s dominance of the Braves:
I’m convinced Capuano would throw a shutout against the ’27 Yankees if they were wearing Braves uniforms
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) May 19, 2013
Follow me on twitter @kevinpate21