Archive for February, 2016

#150: Plop Plop Fizz Fizz, Oh What Relief Is There?

Gil from Mechanicsville Mayor of Stuffville

Gil from Mechanicsville,

 

Last season, the Braves employed a menagerie of cast offs, retreads and hopefuls to fill the bullpen of a rebuilding organization. Two, Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson, performed well enough to help keep the Atlanta club at least within striking distance of first place until mid July. Then disaster stuck with Grilli going down with a torn Achilles tendon. At that point it seemed the Braves lost their heart. Suddenly the bailing wire and duct tape gave out as pitchers lost whatever mojo they had to begin with as the Braves traded away the glue which had held them together.

 

Jason Grilli

Jason Grilli

 

With a paltry offense and a spotty starting staff, the bullpen proved to be more cannon fodder from which opposing teams could feast. So, what do the Braves have to look forward to in 2016? With the pitchers and catchers reporting this week, at least we have some small idea of what to expect. Jason Grilli, ever the optimist, claims to be healthy. We shall have to wait and see if he can hold up to the riggers of the full season. In fact, we might well have to see if he can survive spring training. Having to suddenly go full bore following such a debilitating injury can reveal just how tenuous the human body can be following surgery. It is why we have so many pitchers fail to recover from Tommy John surgery properly. Everyone feels the need to push it often to the peril of the player.

 

 

Jim Johnson is back after an epic late season fail with the Dodgers. While pitching in Atlanta appeared to agree with him, when traded along with Alex Woods for Hector Olivera, Johnson stunk up the joint in Chavez Ravine. Even so, the Braves are hoping that reuniting him with Roger McDowell can again make him the reliable set up man he was the first half of the  2015 season. I have often heard the the mound in LA has a much steeper slope and could be a possible cause of his maladies but  I am really thinking not having Andrelton Simmons manning the six hole behind him. When you are primarily a pitch to contact, ground ball pitcher, you better have a stellar defense behind yo to make it work.

 

Arodys Viscaino

Arodys Viscaino

 

Arodys Vizcaino proved to be a good closer after being re-acquired by the Braves from the Cubs. It appeared that Arodys has finally learned how to find the strike zone with enough consistency to utilize his fastball. While Grilli is penciled in as this coming season’s closer, Vizcaino looks to be ready to assume that role. Of course, the Braves will have to be in more games late for that to be an issue. With so many young starters on the Braves staff, an effective bullpen will be a must if the Braves hope to improve on last season’s 67-95 record.

Chris Withrow

Chris Withrow

 

New comer Chris Withrow is another long term investment made by the Braves. Withrow was acquired from the Dodgers last May following Tommy John surgery in 2013. The 26 year old has the potential to become a reliable set up man in the Braves 2016 bullpen. It will have been about 2 years since his surgery when the season begins so he should now be on the proper time frame to be fully rehabilitated.

 

 

Mike Foltynewicz

Mike Foltynewicz

Mark Foltynewicz could go either way this season, a lot depends on how well he recovers from off season surgery. He has been used as both a starter and a reliever in the past. It is harnessing the control on his 97 mph fast ball and developing a third pitch to allow for him to go through line ups multiple times which could decide his fate. I do find it amazing how many pitchers can throw upper 90s fastballs these days. I has got to be tough to be a hitter in the modern era. That said, Folty is reported to be about two weeks behind so I expect him to start the season in triple A. He won’t stay there long, just long enough to recover from some pretty serious off season surgery.

 

David Carpenter

David Carpenter

 

 

During the off season, the Braves signed David Carpenter and Carlos Torres, aka Super Mario, to minor league contracts. The Braves are hoping they can rehabilitate both pitchers to past glories. We shall see. With so many good young arms now making their way to Atlanta, I expect we will begin to see the arrival of some of the highly touted prospects by mid June.

 

 

Andrew McKirahan

Andrew McKirahan

Paco Rodriguez

Paco Rodriguez

 

 

Some other names which deserve mention are Paco Rodriquez and Andrew McKirahan. One thing to keep in mind, last season the depth just was not there on the farm to cover the rash of injuries. Hopefully, the bullpen will not be the black hole it was last season. For sure, if you are a pitcher who is looking for an opportunity to play in the big leagues, Atlanta should be a top five destination. The word is bring it early and often to show you deserve a job. It’s not like you have a bunch of All-stars blocking your path.

 

It may be ugly early for the Braves but hey, it is a full-on rebuild in progress. At the top of the list is pitching, pitching and pitching. It’s tough to go through it but when you have tried to get by on the cheap for years, it’s not surprising to discover your foundation is riddled with termites. After all, no one really wanted to pay for the exterminator. Why worry about termites when the roof leaks every time it rains?

Gil2



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