Braves burdened by pitching woes
When the Braves left Turner Field last weekend, they were in the midst of a 20-inning scoreless drought and preparing for a six-game road trip against the Yankees and Red Sox. It seemed like they were destined for disaster. Instead, they split this daunting six-game trip and still returned to Atlanta with legitimate concerns surrounding their club.
Given that the Braves have lost 18 of 30, they have to feel quite fortunate to enter Tuesday’s game against the D-backs just 3 1/2 games behind the Nationals in the National League East race. Think about that. They have won 12 times since leaving Tampa and are still within striking distance of a team that will visit Atlanta again this upcoming weekend.
Still after watching Randall Delgado and Mike Minor struggle during the final two games of this past weekend’s series in Boston, there is reason to wonder what changes the Braves have to make to their starting rotation. Delgado and Minor both have potentially bright futures.
But the Braves are not in a position where they can afford to have them both enduring the inevitable growing pains they will continue to endure as this season progresses. They are already committed to sending Jair Jurrjens to the mound every five days with their fingers crossed and the hope that Friday night’s outing against the Red Sox was not a fluke.
There is a chance the Braves could move Kris Medlen to the rotation by this weekend. But the risk is the same as it was a few weeks ago when they were planning to make this move. Moving Medlen to the rotation weakens a bullpen that has been weakened by Jonny Venters’ struggles. This is a move that would be much easier to make if Peter Moylan were just a few days from returning or if Arodys Vizcaino had not blown out his elbow during March’s first week.
I mention Vizcaino simply because I think it has been easy to forget about the significance of his absence. The hard-throwing 21-year-old hurler was one of the most impressive pitchers during the early days of Spring Training. You have to think he could have made some kind of impact this season.
Five weeks from the Trade Deadline, it is hard to project exactly who the Braves might land. Given the respect Fredi Gonzalez and Frank Wren developed for Ryan Dempster during their days together with the Marlins, one would have to think he will be high on the wish list.
But right now it is easier to project that the priority before the Trade Deadline will be pitching. Sure it would be nice to add a bat. But it seems much more important to add either a starting pitcher or a reliever. Preferably both.
The Braves’ starting pitchers rank 13th in the NL with a 4.21 ERA. The three clubs behind them — Rockies, Cubs and Astros — are all destined for a 90-loss season.
Despite all that has gone wrong in the past month, the Braves are still on pace to win 85 games this year. But it’s quite obvious this pace will not improve without some adjustments made to the pitching staff.