Vivlamore reporting from Turner Field with your Braves report.
Fredi Gonzalez may be about to deliver his own change-up.
Much of the baseball world is fully aware of the back end of the Braves bullpen featuring Eric O’Flaherty, Jonny Venters and closer Craig Kimbrel. The lefty-lefty-righty combination is becoming too predictable, said the Braves manager.
Recently, Gonzalez has been calling on Venters in the seventh inning and O’Flaherty in the eighth, a switch from the past routine. He said Friday he might use right-hander Chad Durbin to help break up the pattern.
“Everybody in America knows our back end is lefty-lefty-righty,” Gonzalez said. “You could see the way they use their bench through the course of the game they are anticipating that. There is a little gamesmanship in me that wants to go lefty-righty-lefty. … You notice during the course of the game other managers using their left-handed pinch-hitters earlier because they know we are going with back-to-back lefties in the seventh and eighth.”
O’Flaherty said moving to an eighth-inning assignment, brought about by recent struggles by Venters, has not change his approach.
“I always try to put up a zero regardless [of when I pitch],” O’Flaherty said. “Everyone in the bullpen knows if we can get the ball to Craig with a lead the game is pretty much over. That is all we are trying to do. We’ve had several guys be shaky this year, including myself, and Fredi is just doing his best to get the ball to Craig with a lead.”
* Gonzalez said he expects right-hander Kris Medlen to pitch between 85-90 pitches in his next outing with Triple A Gwinnett. The Braves are stretching out Medlen for a role in the starting rotation. He worked five scoreless innings Thursday in his second start with the G-Braves, allowing four hits with four strikeouts and no walks.
* Shortstop Andrelton Simmons made his Turner Field debut Friday after being called up from Double A Mississippi. He was hitting .333 (6-for-18) and has made several key defensive plays since his arrival.
“This is what I’ve been doing my whole life,” Simmons said. “It’s nothing new. The first game I was kind of anxious to see how it goes. After I took my first ground ball I was like ‘I’ve done this before. I can do it.’ After that it was just routine. It’s my job. As a shortstop I expect to make every play that I can get to.”