After the Braves bullpen covered a whopping 18 innings in the first three games of the Pirates series, including back-to-back extra inning games, the Braves finally called on some help.
They recalled right-hander Anthony Varvaro from Triple-A Gwinnett Thursday to add an extra arm to a weary bullpen and optioned outfielder Wilkin Ramirez back to Gwinnett.
“Just to get some coverage, a JIC – just in case,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We’re getting to where we’re getting some danger zones. Here’s August. We need to make sure we don’t put anybody in a situation where they get hurt.”
Scott Linebrink had pitched four days in a row entering Thursday night’s series finale with the Pirates. He was off limits. Cristhian Martinez pitched six innings of the 13 the bullpen covered in Tuesday’s 19-inning marathon. Scott Proctor pitched three Tuesday night.
And Gonzalez said he planned to rest Jonny Venters on Thursday night, possibly Friday too. Venters is leading the major leagues with 58 appearances.
“It’s end of July and he’s got (58),” Gonzalez said. “We probably need to take care of him a little bit.”
When the Braves went into the 10th inning on Wednesday night, Brandon Beachy was out in the bullpen. They held off his between-start bullpen until after the game, in case they needed him to pitch.
The fact that the Braves were willing to go short a position player on the bench when Chipper Jones is still limited to pinch hitting underscores how thin the Braves bullpen is.
“You could choose not to pinch hit,” Gonzalez said. “You can choose not to pinch run. You can control that a little bit better, but I tell you what, it’s not a good feeling when it’s the sixth inning and you’re looking down and you’re going we’ve got two more guys left.”
Varvaro, 26, whom the Braves claimed off waivers from the Mariners in January, made four appearances for Seattle last year (11.25 ERA). He was 2-6 with a 2.66 ERA in 33 relief appearances for Gwinnett. He is available to go multiple innings.