With the emergence of Mike Minor in the Braves rotation, Kenshin Kawakami is headed back for the bullpen in September, Braves manager Bobby Cox said this week.
That meant Kawakami was stretching back out in Triple-A Gwinnett for an emergency starter role, not a return to the rotation.
The move didn’t seem to faze Kawakami much, after a summer in which he’s lost his starting job to Kris Medlen, pitched only once in a six-week stint in the Braves bullpen, and then did not immediately return to the rotation after Medlen went down with a season-ending elbow injury.
“I have to do my job, whatever position I’m given,” Kawakami said Wednesday through his interpreter.
When asked if he was disappointed, Kawakami said, “No, I’m not disappointed. It’s another important job.”
Just before Medlen’s injury, Kawakami had told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I didn’t come over here to be a reliever.” But he said on Wednesday that his meaning might have gotten lost in translation.
“I might be misunderstood at that time,” Kawakami said. “I was not saying that with any kind of feeling, any emotion. Whatever role I’m getting, I’ll just do my best and do whatever I can to help the team.”
Kawakami is 0-1 with a 4.11 ERA in four starts for Gwinnett. He is scheduled to pitch Friday night, stretching out to 90-95 pitches. He gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings Sunday, but also struck out nine. He’s also worked on adding a slider to his repertoire on a suggestion from Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell, to give right-handed hitters a different look.
“I think he’s shown signs of getting his command back, command in all of his pitches,” Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage said. “I think when he commands that fastball it opens up the door for his curveball and that splitty (split-finger fastball).”