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 

71 Comments

Is Ridgeway one of those guys who has always been a “left handed specialist”, from day one? Or even before in college as well?
I am sick of the new age thinking that gets these guys to the big leagues having only thrown 70 innings over a 3 year span. NOBODY could get their control and command in that situation. That’s where the Mark Wohlers and Joel Zumaya’s of the world are built. Look at the best relievers over the years and with very few exceptions (Mariano Rivera possibly being one) all of the ones with good control (Smoltz, Eckersley, Gossage, Fingers, Pappelbon, etc.) were starters and logged some real innings at one point in their careers. If you think a guy has closer type stuff in the minors, get him some starts to solidify his mechanics. Who cares if a minor league starter has 4 pitches or not. AA ball is not about AA now is it?
Look at Jaba this spring, he looks like “Joe Random hard throwing guy” now. Even crusty old Will Ohman only has 218 career innings over 6 big league seasons. That’s crazy and any positive results are unsustainable.

Ridgway has been downright AWFUL so far. Andruw Jones looks great compared to him. 3 outs and 7 runs is not even good enough to keep at Single A. He needs to get his act together quick while he still has the chance.
On the Andruw note, he has gotten 14 at bats, 2 hits, 10 K’s, 1 walk, and 0 RBIs. His average is .143. That is not very good. That also is awful.
I also think that Acosta and Stockman will not be on the opening day roster. I would like to keep Stockman, but we have better options.
http://darion.mlblogs.com/

Great article, although I still feel uneasy about not having Will Ohman in the pen, but we got some depth to choose from. The 08 season could have been a lot worse without him.With our starting pitching that we have, we will be able to see what our pen is really capable of. Hey Mark, any idea on what we are going to do for a closer after this year? Are we going to bring back Mike Gonzalez or let him go? Then any news on Chippers contract negations? I’ll feel a lot better when that is taken care of.

I talked to Chipper’s agent the other day and he said that he didn’t have any updates. I think both parties are committed to trying to get something done. With Chipper being away for so long during the WBC, I’m not sure if anything will get done before the start of the regular season. But I also don’t anticipate having to cover his entry into the free agent market in November.

Too bad we have reached the end of our rope in the salary department. Would have been a nice thing to work Juan Pierre into the lineup now that the Dodgers definitely have Manny.

You know.. in regards to probably trading some of the relievers before the end of spring training.

carlye was outstanding last year in long relief work. he did have those couple of bad outings, but who on the braves pitching staff didnt have a couple of bad outings last year? Everytime Jo-jo or Morton would have a bad start and last only 2 or 3 innings, Carlye would come in and pitch 3 great innings and keeping us in ball games. he definatly should get in before campillo, bennet or acosta.

I agree with you Smoltzy. That happened very often and Buddy was always there to make it better.
I wish we could get Pierre. I like the guy and think he could be very useful here. The Dodgers would have to eat up the majority of the contract and only expect to get little-to-nothing for him. Or they could just release him. Hopefully Wren would jump all over that. We really need speed and he has that. He has the potential to be a .280-.290 hitter, but he just had a couple of bad seasons. He can still give you 40-50 steals, which is more than the whole team has had in like 2 seasons. We are definitely lacking in speed.
http://darion.mlblogs.com/

You just described Josh Anderson, who we already have for a ton less money, and who is 50 times as good an outfielder as Pierre. Pierre has a Barry Bonds noodle attached to his shoulder.

Anderson will also get you the equivalent ammount of steals that Pierre does. He had 52 steals between AAA and the Majors last season.

See you’ve already got Pierre (+) and didn’t even know it. How’s that for service?
Now, can somebody get me Puhols (+) to play first base? I don’t ask for much…

Anderson wont steal as many bases, but I do know what you mean. But it is always nice to have 2 base threats on a team. http://darion.mlblogs.com/

Mark – Does O’Flaherty get St. Patty’s day off citing religious holiday reasons? Just saying…

bravo.mlblogs.com

Pierre wouldn’t steal as many either on the Braves. Bobby wouldn’t let him. Either way, that trade is a non-starter at the price they are paying Pierre, and there are no prospects we have that we would send out for an OF with no power just months away from the introduction of the Jordan Schafer era. It’s just too bad none of the utility guys are legit base stealers. That would work out great for pinch running situations. Speed is a great weapon for sure.

I think he just gets Green Gatorade that day.

Hypothetically speaking…
Bobby let furcal attempt 56 stolen bases in his last season with the Braves. Pierre is a .300 lifetime hitter, averages 55 stolen bases a year, walks occasionally, and hardly ever strikes out. Josh Anderson has good numbers running in the minors but isn’t a proven major league hitter and could be a liability vs left handed pitching. The acquisition of Pierre would put a proven leadoff guy in center and when Schafer comes up to the majors you can move Pierre (who has 2 years left on his contract) to left field. Assuming Schafer shows the power he has the potential to have, the Braves lineup has all the legitimate pieces that it needs.. a true leadoff hitter and a power outfielder.
I don’t necessarily think that Juan Pierre is the BEST fit, I just think a gigantic question that has been in the lineup since Furcal left would be answered. That said, I do like J Anderson and hope he does well. He deserves it.

Hey Mark, could we get today’s line up and team USA line up for tomorrow?

Andruw is 0-2 with a fielding error.
Salty is 0-1 but has a .538 batting average in the spring.
Andrus is 1-1 with a .267 batting average in the spring
Just a former Braves update lol
http://darion.mlblogs.com/

Andruw actually got a hit! That only happens every full moon!

When I threw out my projections for the Opening Day bullpen, I forgot that they’re not going to need a fifth starter until April 19. My guess is that they’ll carry eight guys in the bullpen. With this in mind, I’ll predict that final spot would come down to Bennett or Acosta.

Tonight’s lineup
Josh Anderson CF Kelly Johnnson 2B Garret Anderson LF Casey Kotchman 1B Yunel Escobar SS Jeff Francoeur RF Martin Prado 3B Clint Sammons C Jo-Jo Reyes P

If I come across Team USA’s lineup, I’ll let you know. I think we can assume Chipper will be batting 3rd. I saw Davey Johnson quoted saying something like “Chipper can roll out of bed and hit.” You know, something we’ve all known for a long time.

Thanks Mark for all of the good information you give to those of us who can’t get enough baseball! This team is beginning to take shape and look like a very competitive team. We may not win the division but if all of our “ifs” come together we will scare a lot of people. Maybe this is the year for some of the other teams to see what it is like to have to put a piecemeal team out there every day. If G Anderson can be the clutch hitter he has always been then he will be a great addition. Again another “if” that we need to be a when. GO BRAVES!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I don’t understand how Boyer can possibly be a lock. His numbers have been awful at the major league level, no matter what John Smoltz says about his “gift.” I think Acosta, who was outstanding in 2007, should get the nod over him unless Manny has a horrible spring. And I’ll be surprised if both Logan and O’Flaherty make the final cut. With Gonzalez and Soriano more or less interchangeable as 8th and 9th inning guys, one set-up lefty is enough. With so many guys out of options (not just in the ‘pen, but Brandon Jones fits there too), we’re going to have to trade for prospects or play giveaway like we did with Bryan Pena (what genius decided to keep Porky Miller instead of Pena anyway?) last year.

Wow Andruw is 2-4 today with a fielding error, 0 strikeouts (holy cow), and a stolen base.
http://darion.mlblogs.com/

Has there been any discussion about trying Diaz in center (as absurd as that thought would have been two or three years ago) in case Anderson runs into a tough lefty or has a minor injury that puts him on the bench a few days? The only other guy on the bench that can play center is Infante.

and a walk

Infante scares me on the field. Everytime I look at him, he looks nervous and unsure what to do.
http://darion.mlblogs.com/

Darion, I agree with you about Infante’s defensive skills as an outfielder. But he’s been pretty smooth at short this year, drawing nearly daily praise from Cox. As the super-utility guy, he’s going to play a big role this year and the Braves can only hope that he does the job when asked to occasionally spell Anderson or Schafer in center….I don’t see him making the OD roster. But keep your eyes on Reid Gorecki. The 28-year-old outfielder has impressed Cox.

Bryan Pena wasn’t even a true 4A player. Nobody wanted to trade for him because everybody knew he was out of options, AND that he had no chance of making the Braves. There is no real code of honor on that front.
I hadn’t heard Brandon Jones mentioned as being out of options, but if he is, he will ABSOLUTELY be traded this spring because there is no way he beats out the 5 guys in front of him (GA, JA, Francoeur, Diaz, Blanco) or even the 2 guys behind him in Schafer and Heyward. I’m pretty sure he has options left for one more year. I hope so for his sake, so that he can show the Braves the improved work ethic he needs to. He did not leave a very good impression in that area last season. He needs a return to the 2007 numbers he put up to get back in the mix.

Matt Diaz has just entered the game for Garret Anderson…i’ll try to find out what might have happened. I think it’s a little too dark for him to be running to catch a round with Tiger.

Maybe Cox will just say it was an astute managerial move…Diaz just hit an opposite-field, two-run homer…forgot to mention that Jo-Jo threw 24 pitches in a scoreless first inning.

LeeC.. I really don’t think the B Jones is out of options.. and the idea of Matt Diaz playing center field is ludicrous. He’s a better left fielder but has no range. And Blaine Boyer is actually a pretty great reliever. He had a good first half but ran out of steam after the break because the rotation broke down and had to make so many appearances.

Wow Diaz showed off a little power there. Hopefully Anderson is ok though. I hope he didn’t get hurt.
Oh and Mark, Reid Gorecki has caught my eye ever since the homer he hit in his first at bat. The kid looks good.
http://darion.mlblogs.com/

Again we have more runs than hits.

Anderson was actually scratched from tonight’s lineup with a strained right calf. He felt some discomfort while jogging during pregame preparations

Looking good so far. Anyone wanna give me the play by play for the 2nd inning?

Is it just me or does Reyes have a no hitter going?

Diaz has some dance moves out in LF that remind me of Lonnie Smith…fairly sure we don’t need to even consider moving him.

On the bullpen front, who’s our best insurance policy (with options) for when Soriano inevitably goes back on the DL for a few months with, say, a hangnail?

After that rocky first inning, Reyes settled down and completed four scoreless innings. He’s allowed one earned run during nine innings. Hey rother told us to be prepared for this.

Diaz had three hits, ending a triple short of the cycle. During the seven-run fourth, he had a three-run double and Martin Prado had a three-run single. Instead of trying to explain, I’ll just tell you that Francoeur stopped between second and third, forcing Prado to slow down and then get in a rundown that allowed Francoeur to score. Maybe I did explain. Maybe I didn’t. If you understood that, then fine. If you didn’t, I told you I wasn’t going to try to explain it.

Right now, the Braves look like they are the best team in the majors. Everything is going great so far.
http://darion.mlblogs.com/

Oh and We have 8 walks, 10 hits and 13 runs. Again more runs than hits. We suddenly learned to take pitches. He have only struck out one time tonight
http://darion.mlblogs.com/

This may be just me… but historically it seems like every time we have a good spring we have a slow season… and a terrible spring usually translates into a great season. Is that just me? There was something about Darion’s “best team in the majors right now” comment that made me cringe.

Garret says it will be a few days until he gets a better idea about when he might return. He was walking with an obvious limp. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s out at least 10 days and possibly longer.

Young teams that have lots of jobs open seem to compete differently, and sometimes look a little better. The years we did poorly in the spring we had veteran staffs and players. We lost a lot of games late when the minor leaguers came in. This team is interesting because of all of the competitive spots, and so much of the good work is being done by guys that aren’t going to be on the team that goes north in April. The question is whether or not this team will be AS good with 25 players as it is with 50.

Stockman was unable to pitch tonight because of back discomfort. If you hadn’t already removed him out of the bullpen mix, you should do so now.

Chris Chandler (Crystal Chandelier to Falcons fans) seems to have a baseball counterpart. That’s too bad.

I don’t think many people had him in it anyway. I think him and Ridgway are now eliminated and Reyes has suddenly put himself in the mix for either a bullpen spot or possibly a rotation spot.
http://darion.mlblogs.com/

Jo Jo provides that ray of sunshine. You know, the one through the shades that hits you right in the eyes when are trying to watch your favorite television program.
He will certainly spice things up for March if this success continues.

I just don’t see Jeff Bennett not making that bullpen. I don’t think Cox will carry EOF and Logan. Logan has been rock solid this spring and we’ve already got the late-inning lefty in Mike Gonzalez.

Hope Jo Jo keps this great work going. A young good lefty wouod be great or great for a trade.

And even though Boyer was number 2 on my Sh*t list last year (behind Mike Hampton, obviously), I’m a newfound Boyer Believer. I love our bullpen.

I agree with you Peter. It looks great.
http://darion.mlblogs.com/

Slight disagreement on the bullpen makeup.

No surprise on Stockman, he gets far far too much clamoring for on the blogs for his talents(avg) and injury prone nature(neverfailing)

Provided that Soriano and Moylan are indeed healthy

My pen would go as follows:

Gonzalez
Soriano
Moylan
Boyer
Acosta
Logan

This is where it gets tricky, for me Carlyle,Bennett and Campillo are all vying for the same spot-Long man.

Now the next question becomes whether you want to carry two of the above trio at the expense of another lefty.

No way I want to see Acosta or some other high end arm go to AAA or be traded to keep more than one of the less pedestrian arms of the Bennett,Campillo Carlyle trio.

I don’t think Acosta will make the bullpen to begin with unless someone starts to suck or gets injured, but that’s just me. It really depends on if Soriano, Gonzalez, and Moylan are all healthy to start the season.
http://darion.mlblogs.com/

I didn’t make the trip to Tampa today. I’ll be back on tomorrow and hopefully we’ll have an update on G. Anderson’s calf. It will be interesting to see if Jurrjens finds more consistency with his location today. At least he won’t have to face Heyward today.

McCann is catching Peavy today. I bet he comes back saying there is no appreciable difference between Peavy’s stuff and Hanson’s.

I know everyone is talking about certain starters competing for the rotation spot.. but do you really see Bobby not putting Glavine in the #5 spot unless he gets hurt or can’t pitch at all? I mean, Hanson and Reyes are playing spectacular baseball so far, but Glavine is still Tom Glavine.

I agree, Glavine IS the 5th starter unless he isn’t healthy. There is no way they should use Hanson in such a sporadic way, and Jo Jo will NEVER pitch in Atlanta again as a Brave. He is strictly trade bait. It’s just a feeling I have.

I think Jojo will pitch sometime this season.
and the Braves are playing live on YES Network

Home run Greg Norton!!!

McCann Sac fly. USA-1 Canada-1

Medlen only needed around 7 or 8 pitches to get out Posada, Nady, and Ransom out. He looked pretty good for those 7 pitches.

Home Run Brandon Jones! That’s three today.

And I mean home runs for the team

Yeah rother, I agree.. Unless Jo Jo is killing it in AAA and someone gets hurt, he MIGHT get the call before Parr or Campillo. And this is only before the all star break. Any openings afterwards will undoubtedly go to Hanson. But yeah, I don’t see Bobby putting him in the rotation in any other circumstance.

We are having a great spring so far. Much better than I though. The Pitching is great, both Bullpen and Rotation (except for Ridgway), the Outfield is great, and the infield is great.

Brian McCann Homers for the U.S. It’s 4-2 now.

Mark, Jurrjens was on today. He had a somewhat shaky first inning allowing no hits or walks but Damon reached on an error and he went to full counts facing the first 2 batters and 2-2 on the third. He threw 18 pitches, 10 for strikes that first inning. The first hit he surrendered was a ground ball that Chipper would’ve probably gotten to. He threw 8 pitches, 4 for strikes in the 2nd. His 2nd hit was another ground ball that was off of the glove of Kelly Johnson and he struck out a batter in the 3rd. In the 4th inning he surrendered a ground ball single to Teixeira (probably the only legit single of the day against Jurrjens) and a ground ball single to the next batter that Casey Kotchman certainly would’ve gotten to, I’m 100% sure of it. They replaced Kotchman with Canizares after 3 innings and Canizarez has pathetic range at first. He struck out the next 2 batters then he was taken out. Carlyle gave up a single to the next batter to stick Jurrjens with the earned run, though it shouldn’t have been earned IMO. He looked even better than his line today, which wasn’t bad at all. The pitching was good today. It wasn’t as good as last night’s but it was good.

Javier Vazquez:
IP-4.1, no runs, 4 hits, 1 walk and 3 strike outs.
USA beats Canada.
Braves beat the Yankees
Pretty good day.

Pretty Good Day? Today was a GREAT day. We beat the Yankees, McCann helped the U.S. win, and the same with Javy Vazquez. It seemed like almost everything went right.
http://darion.mlblogs.com/

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