The Braves are moving elite pitching prospect Arodys Vizcaino from starting rotation to the bullpen at Double-A Mississippi, but not because they plan to make him a reliever.
Braves general manager Frank Wren said the Braves want to limit Vizcaino’s innings in the second half of the season, since he’s already pitching more innings (87) in 17 starts than he pitched in any of his first three minor league seasons with the New York Yankees and Braves.
Vizcaino, 20, totaled a career-high 85-1/3 innings in 17 starts last season and missed much of the second half with a partially torn elbow ligament that healed without surgery.
Rather the No. 16 prospect in Baseball America’s midseason Top 50 list, Vizcaino has posted a 3.21 ERA with 90 strikeouts and 25 walks in 87 innings between high-A Lynchburg and Double-A.
“We have guidelines — not rigid guidelines, but we have kind of suggested inning totals each year for all our pitchers,” Wren said. “And he was getting close where, if he continued to start, he was going to push up against those. And we wanted to slow him down. We’ll see how it goes.
“He’ll relieve for a while, see how it goes and how his innings translate, then make a decision on what happens next.”
Vizcaino’s fastball was clocked at 98 mph in a perfect inning at Sunday’s Futures game in Phoenix, and he had seven strikeouts in three innings Thursday for Mississippi. The Braves’ Martin Prado played third base in that game for Mississippi on an injury-rehab assignment.
“He has an unbelievable arm,” Prado said of Vizcaino. “He’s one of those guys who, for me, can be here, like, right now. Easily. I guess they’re going to give him a period of time [to develop]. I’m not sure about his breaking pitches. I guess the only thing he’s missing is having a good recognition of hitters and counts. But for me, he’s got everything to be a star.
“There’s a couple of guys down [in the minors] that are going to be good, man.”
Prado named top Braves pitching prospect Julio Teheran as another in that category, then was asked to compare Teheran and Vizcaino.
“The only difference is, Julio’s got more consistent location,” Prado said. “But Vizcaino, with that velocity and that arm, is unbelievable.”
If the Braves don’t trade for a reliever and have a need, Wren said they could use one of their pitching prospects in the ‘pen later this season.
“We’ve talked about it a little bit, and we’ll continue to explore it,” he said. “But right now, we’re focused on just seeing how it all shakes out. That’s the main thing.”
Selig: no new rules after fan’s death
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig said it would be left to teams to use “common sense” when it comes to having players and coaches toss baseballs into stands.
No new rules were being considered to curtail the practice after a Texas fan – a 39-year-old firefighter attending the game with his son — died this month after falling over a railing reaching for a ball tossed by Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton.
Selig called the incident “a horrible accident, hearbreaking almost beyond comprehension,” but said that Major League Baseball did not want to prevent such interaction between uniformed personnel and fans.
“I think everybody is reviewing parts of their ballparks where something like this could happen,” Selig said Tuesday at Phoenix during a meeting of the Baseball Writers Association of America. “Maybe there’s some things that they can or can’t do. So I guess what I would say to you is common sense should always take over in these situations.
“So to say today, ‘No, we shouldn’t do this,’ or ‘No, we shouldn’t do that,’ I wouldn’t say that. Absolutely not.”
Wren said that Braves players and coaches had been instructed to use caution in such situations.
“We just tell guys to use their own judgement and be cognizant of things like people running over people to get balls, and try to flip balls a short distance more so than long distances,” Wren said. “[Fans] come to the ballpark hoping to engage and interact. We want that for our fans.”
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he received no new rules from MLB officials since the incident in Texas.
“I haven’t heard anything; we haven’t heard anything,” he said. “But I would recommend to guys, if you’re going to flip [baseballs], flip ‘em short distances. That kind of stuff. But I haven’t gotten a memo on it or anything.
“It was such a freak accident. Sad, tragic.”