Simmons and Medlen could soon see more significant roles
There is obviously not a Braves fan who wanted to endure the agony that has grown during the current eight-game losing streak. But those of you who were hoping to see more of Andrelton Simmons and Kris Medlen might appreciate the consequences.
The Braves have not decided it is definitely time for Simmons to begin his reign as Atlanta’s starting shortstop. But there been a firm decision made to switch Medlen from reliever to starter.
Medlen has been optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett to make two or three starts in preparation to join Atlanta’s rotation. With the bench weakened by injuries, the Braves have recalled outfielder Jose Constanza to fill the vacated roster spot for at least a few days. Constanza will play left on Tuesday night and bat ninth, like he often did when he was a catalyst last August.
While Medlen’s absence could temporarily weaken the bullpen, the Braves are banking on him returning in a couple of weeks to provide the dependability that has not been present when Mike Minor and Randall Delgado have started recently. <p>
Medlen has struggled out of the pen recently, posting a 5.65 ERA and allowing opponents to hit .281 against him in his past 14 1/3 innings (12 appearances). <p>
Having the opportunity to work on a regular schedule and know that he will do more than work more than two innings every so often could benefit Medlen, who posted a 3.86 ERA while the Braves went 13-1 in his starts during the 2010 season. <p>
When Medlen is ready for Atlanta’s rotation, the Braves would have to decide who to remove. Mike Minor and Delgado currently stand as the top candidates. <p>
Now for the potential Simmons decision.
Atlanta’s shortstop Tyler Pastornicky is not the reason the Braves have totaled 20 runs and posted a 5.66 ERA during this eight game skid. His most costly error during this span was a behind-the-back flip that would have been celebrated had Dan Uggla held on to the baseball on Sunday night. But Pastornicky might be victimized by this skid simply because his limited range and hands have been a concern since the start of the season.
In fact, Pastornicky’s defensive limitations have been a concern since Simmons came to Spring Training and showed why many scouts had labeled him the best defensive shortstop at the Minor League level last year.
Some members of the Braves organization lobbied for Simmons make the jump from the Class A level to begin this year as Atlanta’s starting shortstop. But it was decided that he needed some more time at the Minor League level to strengthen his once-questioned offensive skills.
Carrying the momentum generated when he won the Carolina League batting title last year, Simmons has batted .299 with three home runs and an .811 OPS in 167 at-bats with Double-A Mississippi. The exciting 22-year-old shortstop has seemingly passed the test.
Like Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur provided sparks when they made successful jumps to Atlanta from the Double-A level in 2005, Simmons could do the same. At that same time, he will significantly improve the club’s defense.
Jurrjens impresses: When Jair Jurrjens allowed three runs and totaled 15 innings in the first two starts he made after being demoted to Gwinnett, the Braves were not overly impressed because he primarily used his secondary pitches. They sent him to the Minors to command and gain some life on a fastball that had been flat since his right knee began bothering him late in the 2010 season.
After enduring two consecutive ugly outings, Jurrjens did nothing but impress while limiting Rochester to three hits over eight scoreless innings on Sunday. According to one National League scout, his fastball rested around 91 mph and touched 93. At the same time, the former All-Star had no trouble commanding both his slider and changeup.
Many members of the Braves organization were buzzing yesterday about Jurrjens’ outing. It stands as one of the few reasons they have had to get excited over the past week.