Taking a look at the bullpen
Does the art of in-office procrastination remain enjoyable when you are overwhelmed by stories about T.O. and A-Rod? Just wondering and assuming that you guys are ready to do some debating before the Braves stage “Bullpen Audition Night” tonight.
This isn’t exactly a reality-show type competition. When Jeff Bennett, Boone Logan, Manny Acosta and Phil Stockman face the Astros tonight, one of them isn’t necessarily going to be voted off of Disney Island. But if they were to perform like Jeff Ridgway has recently, they certainly could be subject to the type of criticism that would make Simon Cowell proud.
In two appearances, Ridgway has recorded a total of three outs, allowed seven earned runs, issued four walks and surrendered five hits. For Triple-A Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage’s sake, let’s hope things turn around for the left-handed reliever once the regular season begins.
There are still plenty of questions to answer about this year’s bullpen. But a little more than a week into the Grapefruit League season, we can at least speculate about what it will look like on Opening Day.
Assuming that they prove to be healthy, I’d say that Moylan and Soriano join Mike Gonzalez and Blaine Boyer as the current locks to begin the season in Atlanta’s bullpen.
Boone Logan and Eric O’Flaherty are the top candidates to serve as the left-handed middle relievers and I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if Cox carries both to begin the season. When you’re fighing in a division that includes Ryan Howard, Carlos Delgado, Adam Dunn and Chase Utley, you can’t ever have enough lefties in your pen.
Assuming Logan and O’Flaherty will both begin the season in the bullpen, Buddy Carlye, Jorge Campillo, Acosta, Bennett and Stockman could find themselves fighting for the final available spot.
If Bobby Cox wants to keep a long-relief guy, Carlye might be chosen over Campillo, simply because the club might want Campillo to start the season at Gwinnett and remained conditioned as a starter in case he’s needed before Tommy Hanson is officially deemed ready for the Majors.
Of course if Jo-Jo Reyes continues to pitch like he has during his first two appearances, the Braves could choose to use him as their safety net and allow Campillo to start the year in Atlanta. But let’s not forget that Carlyle was rock solid last year, minus two appearances that occurred right after the All-Star break.
If Moylan is available and capable of regaining his pre-TJ surgery form, the Braves may be less inclined to begin the year with Jeff Bennett as their late-inning groundball speciailist. Moylan’s versatility arguably makes him the most important piece to this bullpen.
Even though he’s out of options, I’d still have to view Stockman as a longshot to start the year in the Atlanta bullpen. I’m also putting have Acosta in that same category.
All of these projections come with the assumption that Moylan and Soriano will both be healthy at the start of this season. With that being said, this certainly isn’t a guarantee.
In fact, the only thing I’d be willing to guaranteed right now is that one or more of these relievers fighting for one of the final bullpen spots will be traded before the start of the regular season. There are plenty of teams looking for economical bullpen solutions and they’ll be calling the Braves in the very near future.
– Mark Bowman