Bullpen taking shape

Jordan Schafer’s early success has been refreshing and Jeff Francoeur’s improved approach has been encouraging.  But if you’re attempting to identify the two most important developments the Braves experienced during the regular season’s first week, you have to focus your attention on Rafael Soriano and Peter Moylan.

The most glaring concern for the Braves six games into the season has obviously been the bullpen which has accounted for  15 of the 25 earned runs the club has surrendered.  But as we were still wondering how this relief corps had allowed eight of those runs in one inning, Soriano and Moylan started to turned doubt into optimism. 

Soriano’s velocity hovered around 90 mph while he made just four appearances during the exhibiton season.  Yet four appearances into the regular season, we’ve seen him complete four scoreless innings, surrender one hit and issue two walks. 

Jeff Bennett is the only other Braves reliever who hasn’t been charged with an earned run.  But in the 3 2/3 innings that he’s completed, Bennett has surrendered six hits, hit a batter and issued a walk. Don’t even try to figure out how he’s maintained a 0.00 ERA while opponents have compiled a .471 on-base percentage. 

Nor do we need to determine why Moylan wasn’t able to retire any of the first five batters he faced this year.  Overexcited about returning  to the mound from Tommy John surgery, he was rushing his delivery and deny himself the opportunity to create sink with his fastball.

While slightly shortening the stride of his delivery Saturday night, Moylan struck out the only three batters that he faced.  Along with being perfect, the inning also proved to be the most important the Braves have experienced this year.

There isn’t a late-inning situation that Moylan can’t handle.  The side-winding Aussie can retire an opponent’s top left-handed or right-handed hitter.  He can induce the groundball when neccessary and when provided the opportunity, I truly believe he will prove to be a dominant closer. 

In essence, Moylan is the most valuable piece to this year’s bullpen and that’s why you have to give Cox so much credit for sending him back out there to protect a one-run lead Saturday night.  By doing so, he allowed the right-handed reliever to regain the confidence he’d shown while proving to be the club’s most impressive pitcher during Spring Training.

After Moylan exited Saturday’s game, Soriano worked a scoreless eighth and Gonzalez produced a perfect ninth, during which he threw nine of his 13 pitches for strikes.

This is the way Cox envisions ending a number of games this year.  At the beginning of Spring Training, he said his bullpen’s success hinged on the health of Moylan, Gonzalez and Soriano, who have all undergone season-ending elbow surgeries over the course of the past two years.

Soriano pitched all three games this past weekend and his most
impressive effort came Sunday, when he threw 10 of his 14 pitches for
strikes and notched two strikeouts in a perfect ninth inning

With this being the final year of a contract that calls for him to earn $6.1 million this year, there probably wasn’t reason to wonder if Soriano would be healthy when the regular season began.

Because he’s less than a year removed from Tommy John surgery, there was reason to wonder about Moylan’s arm.  But proving to be somewhat of a medical marvel, he hasn’t provided any indication that he’s felt any sort of discomfort while throwing over the course of the past two months. 

Gonzalez still hasn’t regained the velocity he possessed before undergoing TJ surgery in May of 2007.  But if he continues to spot his curveball consistently, he can still be effective with a 92-93 mph fastball. 

With Kris Medlen waiting in the wings, the Braves have the ability to fortify the front end of the their bullpen when necessary.  But based on what we witnessed this past weekend, the back end is shaping up nicely.

Glavine update: Tom Glavine is expected to return to Turner Field this afternoon after meeting with Dr. James Andrews.  There’s obviously a chance he could tell us he’s experienced a tear and needs to retire.  Then again, he could just tell us that his shoulder discomfort is a product of broken scar tissue. 

Whatever the case, I’d have to think it will be at least another month before he’d be cleared to pitch in a game with the big league club. 

 

  

16 Comments

Agreed Mark, The pen is taking shape.

Still very obvious that Cox has lost confidence in Boyer,

Wouldn’t surprise me to see him moved via a trade.

Will be interesting to see what move is made to get Reyes on the 25 Man roster Saturday.

Look for Jojo Reyes to get pitch this weekend against the Pirates.

Reyes is going to get the start in Saturday’s game. I’m not sure who will be the odd man out when they have to make the roster move. Depending on what we hear from Glavine, the Braves could choose to send Reyes back down to make an April 23 start for Gwinnett and then come back up to start on April 28 against the Cardinals. With Boyer being out of options, I think we’re more likely to see Bennett sent to Gwinnett before Saturday’s game. But Boyer is definitely in the doghouse and like you said David, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Braves move him.

It is amazing how quickly Boyer fell from favor. He was basically the 4th no doubter coming out of Spring, wasn’t he?
I can see a scenario where Bennett goes down, for the Reyes start and Medlen comes back instead after it.
Tommy Hanson was dominating in his first game against Charlotte, but Medlen was untouchable. Plus, the kid is the poster child for the power of “strike one”. Bobby would kill for that consistently in the pen 40 miles down I-85 at Turner Field. Boyer and Bennett don’t provide that.

I’ve never been a fan of Bennett and Boyer being used back to back anyway. They are too similar in style to me and always seemed to be the equivalent of running the same guy for the few innings. No new eye angle, no new pitch selection, no new release point. Just an observation.

Is Boyer really in Cox’s doghouse? Why? Sample size, Bobby. Sample size.

Yeah, it would seem that if he is there is a lot more than what we get to see that has caused the doghouse to be built. Jo Jo got the doghouse last season by just being contrary and not listening to anybody, but I would be surprised to see Boyer falling into that mold.

Jo Jo, to his credit, seems to be digging out. He’ll get his “flea bath” on Friday before his trip to Atlanta. I wish him well. The more the merrier when it comes to quality pitchers.

Charlie Morton threw a gem the other day as well, 12Ks, 1 hit over 6 innings.

Glavine has an inflamed rotator cuff and will rest two weeks before being further evaluated…Scratch that thought about sending Jo-Jo down between the starts on the 18th and 28th. Unless there is an injury, there wouldn’t be enough days in between to send him down and bring him back to the Majors.

Medlin and Acosta have both thrown the ball well in AAA.

Should be interesting to see how things play out.

We have a ridiculous pitching staff – one of the best in the Majors, and definitely the best waiting in the wings in the minors. If our pitching staff in the majors stays consistent, or even if we replace one or two with a few guys from the minors, we will be very, very good this year. Especially if our bats keep ringing…

Vazquez looks good, though he scared me this inning…(2nd)

Come on, Offense!… *sigh*

Neverwhere, at the risk of raining on your optimism, let’s see where this team is after another couple weeks of the season. I think that the pitching staff is better, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it “ridiculous” just yet. Lowe is a good pitcher and Jurrjens has the potential to become one. Vazquez has the reputation for being an innings-eater but let me remind you that he is a sub-.500 pitcher over the course of his career (127-129). Kawakami is still pretty much an unknown commodity. As for our fifth starter, Glavine may or may not be able to make a contribution to this year’s team. If he is able to come back from his injury, he is probably better than most teams’ fifth starters but, after all, he is 43 years old. If not, the team must hope that Reyes or Morton or Hanson can develop into a reliable alternative. Admittedly, they all have potential, but that’s all it is at this point. The bullpen has possibilites, but Moylan, Soriano, and Gonzalez must remain healthy, and this team still must find a reliable left-hander. The offense, too, has possibilities but, in spite of an early season power surge, I still wonder whether they can match the power potential of the Phillies and Mets. Schafer is off to a fine start, but the season is long, and the team must hope that he can sustain his early-season success. And the team must hold its breath that Chipper remains healthy and Francoeur makes a full comeback. I, too, have high hopes about this year’s team, but it’s by no means a sure thing just yet.

The

I understand your concerns but I just don’t see a rotation that is better than ours in the NL East. The Phillies have a mediocre rotation on a good day, the Marlins, while strong, have a long ways to go… Can anyone name a mets Pitcher other than Santana? Of course most of us (you know who us is) can, but are we really worried about Perez?

And I don’t think any bullpen in the NL East is too exciting, but ours is at least solid, save one or two bad marks that could be easily fixed with a AAA guy or three.

I understand the concerns, but I haven’t been excited in three years, so give me the first week before we crash and burn back to fourth place…

The Braves won’t be in 4th place. The Mets have built a team and a stadium that are as mismatched as the Tigers were when Comerica opened. They will struggle all season at home with the line up they roll out there in that National Park of an outfield. Any defensive improvements they try to make will cost them significant offense.
The Phillies have a very good hitting line up, but their starting pitching is really bad, not OK, or alright. Hamels is it, and he was only 14-10 last season before the playoffs. It is going to be a dogfight all season. So much so that I’m starting to think there aren’t enough wins to spread 4 ways and still get a wild card won-loss record. I think it will be division champ or TV remote this season in the East.

WHAT WAS UP WITH GARRET ANDERSON LAST NIGHT??? I HAVE NEVER SEEN A WORSE PLAYED GAME BY A MAJOR LEAGUER IN MY LIFE! ITS LIKE THE PAIN MEDICINE ZONKED HIM OUT. WATCHING HIM WANDER AROUND THE CORNER OF LEFT FIELD, PATIENTLY WAITING FOR THE BALL TO EVENTUALLY ROLL ITS WAY TOWARD HIM WHILE THE MARLINS ROUNDED THE BASES WAS PURE AGONY.

UNBELIEVABLE. ABSOLUTELY UNBELIEVABLE….

First of all, I totally agree with Rother. Citi Field is a nice stadium but until the Mets rebuild their team or shorten the fences, they will go no where at home. Good luck on the road.

Secondly, when I heard Glavine was mulling retirement something inside me just wanted to stand up and shout. I love the guy and I love Smoltz too, but the guys are seriously too old. It’s a great story to see Smoltz try to come back from an injury year in and year out, but it’s kinda like a Brett Farve situation. What else do you possibly need from baseball? You are injured, and hopefully before you tear your arm all to pieces just retire.

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