More from Wren the GM: On Fredi, the bullpen and the Phillies

Frank Wren likes what the guy he hired to replace Bobby Cox did in Year 1. (AP photo)

Frank Wren likes what the guy he hired to replace Bobby Cox did in Year 1. (AP photo)

For your listening enjoyment, here’s a bit more from this week’s conversation with Braves general manager Frank Wren. (Other snippets of the Wren Zen can be found here.)

On the the epic collapse of 2011: “We have to learn from it and grow from it.”

On starting pitchers Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens, whose injuries helped undo the 2011 season: “[Tommy] feels great. We feel very good about where he is. Jair was ready to pitch a week after the season was over. And Tim Hudson [who underwent offseason back surgery] should be ready or close to ready by the end of spring training. He says he feels better than he has in two or three years.”

On whether or not a major personnel move will be warranted: “I think we’ll have more answers at the end of spring training. If everyone bounces back, then we’ve got a good ballclub that doesn’t have a major need. I’d rather be in that position [than having to fill a specific void] because when the season starts another need can come up.”

On how it was to watch St. Louis, which finished a game ahead of the Braves, win the World Series: “We felt like we matched up very well with the Cardinals, but they seized their opportunity to the max.”

On the excruciating final night of the 2011 regular season: “Once [the Phillies] tied the game in the ninth and it went into extra innings — and we’d been watching the Cardinals win their blowout — the reality was that we knew we had to win. [The Braves lost in 13 innings and were eliminated.] That was a very empty feeling. It was a tough clubhouse that night.”

On Fredi Gonzalez in Year 1 as Braves manager: “It’s a tough situation following a legend [in Bobby Cox], but I thought Fredi did a terrific job in setting the right tone. We had a tough month [meaning September], but it wasn’t for lack of trying. This year I think Fredi will be more relaxed and more himself, and that bodes well.”

On the notion that Gonzalez overtaxed his bullpen early in the season: “We played so many extra-inning games and so many close games, and that was largely a function of our offense. It’s a tough thing [regarding the use of relievers]: You’re trying to win every game you play. I think Roger [McDowell, the pitching coach] and Fredi made a conscious effort to try to rest guys the second half of the season.”

On this year’s relief corps: “We’ll have an even deeper bullpen, and our back three [Craig Kimbrel, Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty] is as good as anybody’s.”

On the impulse, especially after an epic collapse, to make a big move just for the appearance of motion: “You have to fight that urge. We took a realistic look at our club. We had opportunities where we could have made deals if we wanted to make deals for the sake of making deals.”

On the Phillies: “They’ve got a big hole in their lineup. [Ryan Howard ruptured his Achilles on the final play of Philadelphia's season and will miss a few months.] But they’ve got a good ballclub and they play the game the right way — they’re going to be there.”

By Mark Bradley

284 comments Add your comment

ChopAttack

January 20th, 2012
8:44 am

doofus

January 20th, 2012
8:44 am

look at me guys, im first.

ChopAttack

January 20th, 2012
8:45 am

BTW… that’s the first time I’ve ever done “first” and I hate myself very much right now.

GT 2012

January 20th, 2012
8:46 am

GO BRAVES!!!!!

Mark Bradley

January 20th, 2012
8:49 am

Kudos, ChopAttack. And for the record, I don’t hate you

ChopAttack

January 20th, 2012
8:51 am

It’s 76 days until opening day.

Ervin Waller

January 20th, 2012
8:54 am

Beginning to think Wrenn is clueless…Freddi G. is the main reason for the Braves Fail with his lack of passion and inability to inspire the team..Both he and Wrenn need to go along with Liberty Media
.

disbot3000

January 20th, 2012
8:55 am

Here’s praying Pastornicky is ready for the big time, I guess. I mean, I agree that we generally have a good team going in, but SS is a huge question mark right now. It would feel better to have gotten a healthy, productive, proven veteran for at least one more year, other than Gonzalez, whom I think is talented but kind of lazy, but I guess the kid will have to do. Let’s win the whole thing for Chipper this year so he can retire with a championship. Go Braves!

Dean

January 20th, 2012
8:56 am

I agree with Wren but also feel that given ownership that was built to truly win they would have made a move of some sort. Glad to have Prado and Jurjens back but something needs to be done for a bat.

ChopAttack

January 20th, 2012
8:57 am

The Braves should hire Mr. Waller. Apparently he’s a baseball genius.

extremus

January 20th, 2012
8:57 am

Anytime you’re comparing yourself to another team it’s pretty clear to everyone listening that THEY are the standard being measured against, not you. It used to be that way with the Braves, but sadly it is no longer; if/when we once again have an organization that doesn’t have to bother measuring itself against anyone (and an ownership that actually cares enough to help them reach that level), then we’ll once again hear serious talk about World Series championship expectations as opposed to Wild Card hopes.

markie mark

January 20th, 2012
8:57 am

God, ChopAttack….how could you? the quality of firsters is going downhill around here….

Ervin Waller

January 20th, 2012
9:00 am

Just saying that Freddi could do nothing in Florida and then comes to Our Braves and if you watched him the last month of the season..he had no ideal how to stop the bleeding,

ChopAttack

January 20th, 2012
9:05 am

Ervin,

Fredi won manager of year on a team with an idiot owner in a division with much better teams. No one could have stopped the bleeding in September. The Red Sox manager won two World Series and watched a larger collapse than the Braves. Is he a bad manager as well? Learn a little bit about baseball. Knee jerk blame says more about your lack or baseball knowledge than it does about the Braves manager.

Steve

January 20th, 2012
9:09 am

Ervin Waller, Fredi was not the one batting, fielding, or pitching. He did what he could. It’s not like he made a ton of terrible decisions. The players have nobody to blame but themselves.

Hankie Aron

January 20th, 2012
9:11 am

We’re listening to the Wren Zen but if we’re a .500 team on the first day of June, in the words of Ricky Ricardo, Wren will have som “splaining” to do.

Todd A.

January 20th, 2012
9:13 am

Max Sizemore

January 20th, 2012
9:15 am

Chop, your 845 comment was downright funny.

OF COURSE Fredi overused the bullpen the first half of the season — it simply wasn’t deep enough and that’s on Frank Wren (or the Liberty folks who draw up his budget).

ChopAttack

January 20th, 2012
9:16 am

The 2012 Braves will likely be a better hitting team, but the pitching staff is a huge question mark. Jurrjens hasn’t stayed healthy the past two season. That leaves Hanson and Hudson anchoring the staff. Hudson is getting older and Hanson has trouble pitching past the 6th inning.

The Braves have a ton of quality arms, but we lack an ace. Who is the consistent #1 on this staff?

G

January 20th, 2012
9:16 am

Listen this team is flu of “ifs’.” It gets real old being a braves fan the last 5 or so years listening to all the “ifs’.” Are we really banking this season on 3 pitchers you are coming of injuries or surgeries, 2 corner outfielders to “bounce back” (by the way great players don’t have to bounce back, they just remain consistent), an old 3rd baseman to play enough games, a second baseman to have a full season and a rookie first baseman to have another good year? We did nothing in the off season when something needed to be done… No change, this team will finish 4th in the division as built…

buster brave

January 20th, 2012
9:17 am

glad to hear mr. wren has some sense of his ballclub,and is absolutely right with his assessment. not listening to idiots to spend $$$ on names, like a lot of said idiots on this blog gets my respect.good article,and interview mark.

ChopAttack

January 20th, 2012
9:17 am

Max…

No is arguing that the bullpen wasn’t overused. The question is what was the alternative? The Braves played in so many close games b/c the offense wasn’t scoring runs. There’s no way the Braves would have won 89 games if Fredi simply rested guys in close games.

cmc

January 20th, 2012
9:20 am

Mr. Wallller,

Did you ever participate in a spelling beeee? Just wonderingggg.

Dr. C

January 20th, 2012
9:20 am

On the the epic collapse of 2011: “We have to learn from it and grow from it.”….what pablum! What specifically is he or anyone doing or what specific lesson did anyone learn? I’d like to hear one example where he can point to a problem and say “next time we will do…x” Even when discussing the bullpen use above, he didn’t say that they made a particular error and won’t do it next time. Mark, I assume you did the appropriate eye-roll when hearing that response.

ChopAttack

January 20th, 2012
9:22 am

Dr. C,
The lesson learned is… don’t have your two best pitchers hurt in the 2nd half of the season.

Bama Mike

January 20th, 2012
9:23 am

It is all about mathematics
Wren = Spin
Fredi = Collapse
2012 < 2011

G

January 20th, 2012
9:23 am

Hanson and Jurrgens are NOT our best two pitchers are they? If so we are in trouble!!

SawThat1nce

January 20th, 2012
9:24 am

“Fredi will be more himself”, I hope he his regular self has a little more fire.

ChopAttack

January 20th, 2012
9:24 am

G,
You can make an argument for Hudson, but when Hanson and Jurrjens are healthy they’re the closest thing to a #1 the Braves have.

G

January 20th, 2012
9:26 am

And there in lies the problem… The Braves do not have a legitimate #1… I have been making this case for a couple of years… I love Hanson and Jurrgens but they can’t stay healthy or pitch more than 6 or 7… Need more frontline pitching

SawThat1nce

January 20th, 2012
9:26 am

This year could be the breakout year, for the young guns to take over in the pitching department, like 1991, all over again.

add

January 20th, 2012
9:27 am

Donovan

January 20th, 2012
9:27 am

For the record…Jurrjens and Hanson are not that good. So don’t hang your hat on those two.
For the record…FG is not that good to feel comfortable with him as a seasoned 2nd year mgr.
For the record…Wren is only kidding himself and the fans that making moves to improve the team are not necessary. This team does not have the talent or mentality to compete with Washington or Florida that made off season improvements.

Shortstop, 3rd base, LOF, ROF and starting pitching are holes on the team that will undo any kind of success this coming season. The catching position is suspect in regards to defense. Mac can hit, but he can’t keep players from swipping 2nd base.

Sorry folks, but you are looking at 4th place.

SawThat1nce

January 20th, 2012
9:28 am

Why is a #1 so important, when you have so many really good pitchers?

SawThat1nce

January 20th, 2012
9:29 am

doom and gloom

G

January 20th, 2012
9:30 am

Ask Texas, Philly, San Fran, and St. Louis if it’s important to have a shut down guy you can count on every 5 – 6 days

crazy man

January 20th, 2012
9:31 am

Utopia baby..just ask reckingball and old 80’s fan.

Mike

January 20th, 2012
9:32 am

Tommy Hanson isn’t that good? 8.4 K/9 over his career. He finished 11-7 and nearly 10 K/9 in 2011 before the injury…he was what, 11-5 with over 10 K/9 at the break? He threw 200 innings with 172 Ks in 2010, his only full season.

You can say all you want about his shoulder and injury. But if you say Hanson is not that good, you have no idea what you’re talking about and need to do some stat studying bro.

SawThat1nce

January 20th, 2012
9:33 am

Why do so many people that yell 1st on these blogs, always say it was their first time to be first, and that they are ashamed for yelling first?

SawThat1nce

January 20th, 2012
9:35 am

There are a lot of teams that would love to have JJ or TH on their staffs. IMHO.

Peter

January 20th, 2012
9:39 am

We don’t necessarily need a #1 starter, but what we do need is for the starters we have to go deeper into games. That is the biggest question mark. I am confident that the offense will bounce back to some degree, but the rotation has to throw more innings. Having Medlen in the pen will help, though.

Supes

January 20th, 2012
9:41 am

The Braves will have a chance to contend for the wild card IF, and it’s a big IF…they stay healthy AND they get consistent production from up & down in the lineup…this team is NOT designed to overcome a slumping batter or two and mediocre offense leads to over usage of the bullpen…

Wren said the Phillies have a “hole” in their lineup, well the Braves have the potential to have multiple holes due to guys not producing like last year, esp. pre all star game.

SawThat1nce

January 20th, 2012
9:42 am

Even a #1 pitcher loses sometimes, and if they win most of the time that is one win every 4 of 5 games, which I guess, is significant.
I suppose that a #1 stud pitcher, would be the most beneficial in the playoffs, where they are regularly used every 3rd game.

George Stein

January 20th, 2012
9:44 am

I’m typically not a “fire him” type of guy, but FG’s bullpen management is reason enough to terminate him. He has proven he has no ability or inclination to do anything that requires any real thought and the failures of the bullpen – and thus the failure to reach the playoffs – down the stretch can be laid directly at his feet.

SawThat1nce

January 20th, 2012
9:46 am

I think Peter is correct. That was one of the downfalls of last season, and another reason that the bullpen was burned-out by Sept.

ChopAttack

January 20th, 2012
9:48 am

To sum up…

Many Braves fans think Fredi misused the bullpen. They are the same fans who would have complain if Fredi would have rested the pitchers and we would have lost more games. Logic is not their best friend.

richard

January 20th, 2012
9:51 am

phillies,marlins,nats,braves,mets in that order

George Stein

January 20th, 2012
9:52 am

Nothing to do with that, ChopAttack. It has to do with him, for example, using Venters in the 8th inning of a 9-3 game for no apparent reason.

The problem with Fredi is that he cannot think for himself. He cannot do anything to get off script. It’s why he won’t use his closer in the 9th inning of a tie game on the road.

ChopAttack

January 20th, 2012
9:53 am

If I had to pick right now… Phillies, Braves, Nats, Marlins, Mets

SawThat1nce

January 20th, 2012
9:53 am

Another problem with the bullpen was that too much of the load was put on OVentBril. No one else seemed to stepup, and if they did, they only pitched 2 or 3 good outings, and then went back into their ineffective mode.
The one pitcher that I thought really helped, was the pitcher that would come in and pitch long relief, he was pretty effective most of the time.