A couple shaky starts with extra rest did not solve the Floyd dilemma

When it became apparent Alex Wood and Aaron Harang would be both be starting with two extra days of rest this week in Miami, I asked Tom Glavine if he liked those instances when he was forced to alter his normal preparations to pitch under this arrangement.  The simplified version of his answer was that he hated the extra rest when he was young and savored it during the latter years of his career.

In contrasting fashion, as Derek Lowe neared the end of his career with the Braves, he never liked starting with even one extra day of rest.

Like the rest of us, pitchers are a creatures of habit.  But their preferences and susceptibility to be influenced by these habits differ.

After seeing his improbable run of dominance conclude in horrific fashion as he allowed a career-high nine earned runs in just 4 2/3 innings on Wednesday night, Aaron Harang said his shaky command might have been a product of the altered preparations he had to make before entering this start.

“I don’t know if I was just a little off because we had two extra days this week,” Harang said. “That will throw you off a little bit. You’ve got to throw a couple bullpens in the middle of the week as opposed to just the one.”

Less than two years removed from those days when he made one start a week for the University of Georgia, Wood might have been too young to notice the difference as he started with two extra days of rest on Tuesday and then proceeded to allow more runs (7) in five innings than he had in the 35 innings that had encompassed his only other five starts this season.

Wood never mentioned the extra rest as being a deterrent. And that is  a good thing, considering this altered schedule could prove to benefit him as he attempts to remain strong throughout what is just his second full professional season.  The Braves are aiming to limit the southpaw to somewhere between 170-180 innings this year and as things currently stand he is what would approximately account for a month ahead of that pace.

The Braves might eventually need to move Wood to the bullpen in an attempt to more easily monitor his workload.  But they are not currently ready to do so.  If you didn’t believe manager Fredi Gonzalez when he said this yesterday, then ask yourself why is Wood still scheduled to start on Sunday, despite the fact that Gavin Floyd is available to pitch on normal rest that same day?

Because his 30-day Minor League rehab assignment expires on Friday, Floyd must be activated from the disabled list on Sunday.  But it remains to be seen exactly how he fits into the club’s plans moving forward.

If the clock has indeed struck midnight and Harang’s Cinderella run is complete, Floyd could fill that spot in the starting rotation.  But I’m of the notion to believe Harang is somewhere in the middle of being the pitcher who posted a 0.85 ERA through his first five starts and then got lit up on Wednesday night.  If this proves to be true, he would seemingly be a better option than Floyd, who seems destined to become the latest of the pitchers who battle inconsistent stretches for a few months after returning from Tommy John surgery.

Gonzalez said there is a chance Floyd will be placed in the bullpen when he returns.  This is certainly not the role the Braves envisioned when they gave the righty a one-year contract that includes a $4 million deal.  But given what happened to Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy in March, they also never envisioned reaching a point where they would have to wonder how somebody could fit into their rotation.

The Braves rotation surrendered 28 earned runs through this season’s first 24 games and 15 earned runs during the first two games of this week’s series in Miami. Still starting staff’s 2.32 ERA stands as the best mark for an Atlanta rotation (since 1966) has ever taken into May.  The previous best April ERA for an Atlanta starting staff was the 2.84 ERA produced by the 1968 club.

So for now, the Floyd dilemma stands as a good problem to have.




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