A call to all available arms: The Atlanta Braves could use you

Will we be seeing Mike Minor in the majors much longer? Probably. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Will we be seeing Mike Minor in the majors much longer? (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

A major-league roster includes 25 players. Custom now holds that 12 of those are pitchers, and you’d think devoting 48 percent of resources to one position would leave said position well stocked. Then you look at the Atlanta Braves, and you realize a dozen go as far as it once did.

The Braves entered Game 3 of their series against the Yankees with their pitching staff an amalgam of wellness clinic and departure lounge. Brandon Beachy, who leads the majors in ERA, was supposed to start Wednesday night but, owing to slight elbow soreness, was bumped back to Saturday. Wednesday’s starter thus became Tim Hudson, who’d missed his regular turn due to a tender ankle.

Reliever Eric O’Flaherty was unavailable again Wednesday after waking Monday with a sore elbow. “We’re trying to keep him off the disabled list,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. The rookie reliever Cory Gearrin was likewise unavailable for big-league duty, having been returned to Gwinnett after two eventful nights in the majors. (On Monday, Gearrin worked two innings and induced two double plays; on Tuesday, he yielded the game-losing home run to Nick Swisher.)

Anthony Varvaro took Gearrin’s place on the roster, but Varvaro stands to be a short-timer himself. Kris Medlen, dispatched to Class AAA to ready himself as a starter, threw 97 pitches Wednesday and will be recalled soon. Just what he’ll be doing once he gets back, nobody knows. “Frank [Wren, the general manager] and I will see,” Gonzalez said. “We’ll have some conversation.”

Medlen’s time with Gwinnett was prompted by the holes in the starting rotation, which was supposed to be iron-clad. But Jair Jurrjens, a 2011 All-Star, was so awful in his first four starts of the season that he was summarily demoted, and his absence forced the Braves to rely on both Mike Minor and Randall Delgado, as opposed to one or the other, to start big-league games. Neither has been great, but both have done better lately.

Which means … what? Probably that the status will remain quo. Asked before Wednesday’s game about the possibility of demoting either Minor or Delgado, Gonzalez said: “It’d be hard. We see progress there.”

Besides, recent events indicate a deeper need for Medlen in the bullpen. The rapid unraveling of Tuesday’s game showed the impact a missing arm (or two, or three) can have. As noted, O’Flaherty was of no use. Had he been, he might have become the first reliever summoned in the eighth inning, as opposed to Johnny Venters, who would face four Yankees and retire none.

Had Medlen not been pitching in Pawtucket, R.I., on Tuesday, he might have replaced Venters. (So might Chad Durbin, except that he’d worked four times in five days and was also unavailable. Do relievers have a union on top of the baseball players’ union?) And the round of managerial second-guessing that greeted Tuesday’s loss might have been rendered moot.

“With 20/20 hindsight, the only thing I might have done different is go with [Cristhian] Martinez instead of Gearin,” Gonzalez said, and even then that wouldn’t have been an optimal matchup.

Swisher is a switch-hitter who does better work against right-handers. (Of his 39 RBIs, 34 have come while hitting left-handed.) Without O’Flaherty, the Braves’ lefty relief  consisted of Venters — and he hadn’t gotten anybody out and had yielded Alex Rodiguez’s Gehrig-matching grand slam to boot. Making it worse: Gearrin is a sidearmer, and a righty sidearmer’s effectiveness is halved when facing a lefty. On cue, Swisher swatted the second pitch he saw.

In sum, the Braves have pitching issues, and not just in the rotation. The bullpen cupboard isn’t overflowing, either. Medlen’s return should help, but it’s never a good sign when starters are missing starts and relievers aren’t available to relieve. And the regular season has 99 games to go.

It has become a midsummer ritual to ponder what bat the Braves might land at the trade deadline, but this July could be different. This time they need arms. The best arms — they figure to include Zack Greinke of Milwaukee and Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza of the Cubs — tend to cost even more than available bats, and the Braves haven’t been inclined to pay retail price since Liberty Media bought the club.

For a couple of weeks, this correspondent has been asking Gonzalez if he has enough pitching. The manager’s latest answer: “Even when you think you have enough, you can always use more.” To these ears, that sounded like a diplomatic way of saying, “Arms welcome — apply within.”

By Mark Bradley

155 comments Add your comment

Vinny

June 14th, 2012
2:17 pm

zulucanibal

June 14th, 2012
2:21 pm

geez what a mess.

Gonzalez is an IDIOT

June 14th, 2012
2:24 pm

Is there anyway we can get Fredi gone? This man is an idiot!

Herschel Talker

June 14th, 2012
2:26 pm

MB:

FIRE FREDI GONZALEZ!!!

HT

Jeffrey

June 14th, 2012
2:28 pm

I hope you are over reacting mark. I think we’ll be ok. Venters will figure it out, Hernandez will retire, medlin will flip around like prado, moly an will comeback and Tehran didn’t look half bad. I think we might trade for a lefty probably a reliever but really think we’re just working through som stuff.

Sonny Clusters

June 14th, 2012
2:30 pm

We are on the way! Clusters don’t usually pitch but we can when we need to. We was thinking of a new slogan . . . CHOP FREDI! If we was to CHOP FREDI maybe somebody else could come in here and get things straightened out.

Rickster

June 14th, 2012
2:31 pm

Before we get rid of the pitchers we have – for others that will come in and see their talent wasted – we need to get a better pitching coach.

Bring back Leo!

Braves Fan

June 14th, 2012
2:35 pm

Until Gonzalez learns how to use them, it does not matter how many arms the Braves have. I am so sick of using Kimbrel only in “save situations”. Everybody knew Tuesday’s night game hinged on A-Rod’s at bat except Gonzalez. Heck, bring Kimbrel in and let him retire the last 5 batters. He retired 4 (including a K and pass ball) in the 9th inning last night and it didn’t bother him. By the way, we had thought of this before the grand slam!

Sonny Clusters

June 14th, 2012
2:38 pm

That little tender hearted fella keeps posting about us and we think we know why. He may be related to Chipper. Or he could be a Hooters girl posing as a tender hearted little true fan. We’re not sure. In any case, he doesn’t want us talking about Chipper maybe not going to the HOF. We think he’ll get there and we think they should put him in the LOB section. If they don’t have an LOB section they should get one because he was outstanding at that last night.

reebok

June 14th, 2012
2:46 pm

Gonzalez may or may not be a good Manager, but the Manager isn’t the problem in this case. The problem is, this team is made up of a handful of has-beens, a couple of up & comers, a bunch of guys who belong in Triple A, and Brian McCann. They are a completely average team, meaining they can get hot and catch some breaks and win several in a row once in a while, but the talent differential between the Braves and the best teams in baseball is massive. If they do sneak into the playoffs, they’ll win one game at most, zero chance of surviving the first round.

Chris

June 14th, 2012
2:47 pm

2 of these losses can be attributed directly to idiotic Fredi decisions. Sending Gearinn in to face a switch hitter than would hit lefty isn’t a hindsight issue. Fredi gets flustered and can’t make rational decisions on the fly so when the game gets close he panics and starts to believe in Livan magic. He didn’t even fully try last night when he refused to pinch hit Diaz for Hinske with a LH on the mound. Braves need a innovative manager not one that panics and can’t think logically.

Joe Tess Fish House

June 14th, 2012
2:47 pm

Who was the fist 2 tell U all that hiring a managar with a loosing record was a misteak?

It was me and it got me band from DOBs blog.

TomB

June 14th, 2012
2:50 pm

We have a managing problem(GM also), and a pitching problem. Love how Mark glossed over the stupid decision to have Medlin go to the minors in the first place. Stretch out you arm…dumbest thing I’ve ever heard off. What about the decision to have no one warming up when Venters entered the game the other night? Hello,but these are all managing decisions, poor ones I might add. And, you can’t blame Liberty Media anymore when the Braves have a larger payroll than Baltimore, Cincinatti, Cleveland, Washington and Tampa Bay.

Dawgdad (The Original)

June 14th, 2012
2:51 pm

Well, depending on Frick and Frack to sort this out, seems disturbing to me. One has watched his team twice blow 4-0 leads in a week, with unimpressive efforts to stop the blood loss. The other is on record as saying “We like our team”. It just doesn’t engender much confidence.

As, I said yesterday, a six man rotation, seems worth trying, what with all this gimpy arms needing a little rest, according to Fredi. We use the ones, who need to throw in between starts, for an inning or two when needed out of the bullpen.

Fish Bisch

June 14th, 2012
2:58 pm

Letting go of Lowe was our ultimate undoing and worst mistake in the history of the Braves.

j

June 14th, 2012
3:01 pm

Amen Rickster!

Chupa Cabra

June 14th, 2012
3:02 pm

Chipper Jones for player-manager ASAP!

Trojan

June 14th, 2012
3:13 pm

We have a lot of pieces but nothing seems to fit. Is it management by the front office or field level management? Something is not right.

Medlin is needed in the bullpen.

The team needs to settle down. Don’t bring up Gerrin just to send him down. He was not used properly. There was no surprises. He was not used properly.

shorty

June 14th, 2012
3:19 pm

ByeBye Cluless Little Fredi!

Jeffrey Ladrae Williams

June 14th, 2012
3:20 pm

It is PAST time for Fredi to go! Part of me wants to see him fail so we can have Terry Francona or Joe Torre next season and win!

MD braves fan

June 14th, 2012
3:20 pm

Still waiting on a writer to rip our stupid a** manager. Don Sutton whining about the thiings being said about Fredi and acting like we don’t know what we are seeing. I think after watching the Braves for 33 years , I know what an inept manager is. As long as he’s the manager, no high profile player would come to the Braves. Bourn will be in pinstripes next year.

Greg Norton

June 14th, 2012
3:24 pm

Loyal Fan

June 14th, 2012
3:30 pm

Let’s get a serious buyer for the braves first. Liberty Media is garbage. They own and run Discovery Channel, Barnes and Noble, and other big networks, however, don’t have any money for the braves. Bunch of trash. We need an owner that has an invested interest in the Braves’ success.

bulldogbubba

June 14th, 2012
3:30 pm

Mr. Clusters please write your own blog for us fans.The leadership has left with all the good pitching.

DogTheMan

June 14th, 2012
3:31 pm

I guess all that money we saved in the offseason in case of emergencies can be used now. I doubt it will. We are a >500 team with a below .500 manager.

Shelfish Chipper need 2 retrie now!

June 14th, 2012
3:34 pm

Shelfish man got dumped by his wife. I try 2 post a comment and this is all that show up

Comments are closed.

Talk about sucking up 2 the Braves no mater what. This is the same shelfish jerk that cheeted on his wife with a hooters girls. We should at lease give out thouhs on how shelfish he is and desereved 2 be dump.

Heisenberg

June 14th, 2012
3:39 pm

Even if Meds comes back to the bullpen, he is a righty. There needs to be another lefty. Enough already of trying to not DL guys. Look what that got during an 8 game loosing streak. At one point they had Chipper, Mac, & Freeman on the active roster but not available and we saw what that did to the bench. If a guy cannot go, put him on the 10 day and get someone who can.

snes

June 14th, 2012
3:41 pm

I think what Gonzalez was really thinking is that if Kimbrel had pitched against ARod and gotten the five outs needed to save the game then Kimbrel wouldn’t be available to pitch on Kimbrel’s bobblehead night on Wednesday. Better to lose Tuesday than have that happen lol

MikeY

June 14th, 2012
3:44 pm

Heisenberg, I agree w/ you, we need a lefty in the bullpen that can pitch multiple innings. Minor does great first time through a batting order. I say:

* Bring up Medlin, make him a starter
* Let Minor pitch long relief
* DFA Hernandez

Myside

June 14th, 2012
3:45 pm

It ain’t going to get any better till we have a manager who knows what he is doing and acts like it. Fredi is not one of them.
Forget the playoffs and just hope for a non-basement finish.

Larry

June 14th, 2012
3:48 pm

You can sure tell who never has nor ever will own a business here.always blaming the Braves ownership for stupid signings (Lowe, KK,), stupid, crippling contracts, (Chipper), stupid hiring of the just prior fired (Wren and Gonzalez), and the stupid retention of just simply a very cognitively deficient and horrendous manager of men in Gonzalez.

Earth to idiots–the Nationals’ team payroll–you know, that team 5 games in front of us–is less than the Braves!

Stop making excuses for poor general management, poor field managment, and poor player performance. Notice the common denominator here…poor!

You know who I am

June 14th, 2012
3:53 pm

The only consistent thing about the current Braves team is Fredi. He consistently makes
dumb decisions and does not realize it.

Heisenberg

June 14th, 2012
3:53 pm

That cold work Mike, The only thing that makes me nervous about Minor in relief is he needs to start an ining fresh without guys on base. He has not shown the ability to get out of jams so you could not bring him in the bases loaded and 1 out to try to get the strike out or GIDP like the classic situational lefty would do. But I am not sure going back to AAA and dominating at that level is going to help with the developement of Minor or Delgado. These guys need to be facing big league hitters to continue their development. That is how teams like the Texas Rangers develop piitchers. They used Agando & Holland out of the bullpen before moving to the rotation.

Nativebird

June 14th, 2012
3:54 pm

crackbaby

June 14th, 2012
3:58 pm

@ Joe Tess – is your post a joke?

John

June 14th, 2012
3:59 pm

Potential does not make one a baseball player….. performance does.

John

June 14th, 2012
4:04 pm

Fredi is not going to give up this job. He likes wearing a baseball uniform and knows this is his last chance
to wear one. Earning a living is not on his agenda.

In despair

June 14th, 2012
4:07 pm

This one is not on Fredi. This is Wren’s department. He is an utter incompetent. He goes at season’s end.

Old Dog

June 14th, 2012
4:19 pm

Once again Reebok is right on. We may not like it but what he says makes a lot of sense.

RealTAlk

June 14th, 2012
4:24 pm

Bring Back Leo.

Joe Tess Fish House

June 14th, 2012
4:32 pm

@ Crackbaby

Not shure what U mean by joking. Im not joking.

Ralph

June 14th, 2012
4:37 pm

FG

“Even when you think you have enough, you can always use more.”

It is true they could use more pitching however this team would be better off with one less, His name is LIVAN HERNANDEZ.

If they send Varvaro down and keep fatso I am going to be really pissed.

Chipper Washed Up At Home Too

June 14th, 2012
4:40 pm

Well it looks like Gimper Jones can’t play at The Ted or at Home either……..the disabled gimper veteran is washed up at both places…….Gimper go ahead and retire and save us the embarrassment of having to see you hobble around the 3rd Base area…..you are worthless…..bet he has heard that one at home too……..

Jean Claude Killy

June 14th, 2012
4:43 pm

Joe Tess,,,, You should be BAND.. LOL

Jean Claude Killy

June 14th, 2012
4:44 pm

Or maybe you could start a Band….

Ralph

June 14th, 2012
4:46 pm

I think sending Medlen to “streach his arm” was a ploy to send a message to Minor and Delgado, he if thats what it was it seems to have worked. Anyway Meds arm didn’t need streaching, they streched him out during ST so he could be used both ways

Ralph

June 14th, 2012
4:48 pm

He’s just trading her in for a newer model!

Jean Claude Killy

June 14th, 2012
4:50 pm

Shelfish Chipper,,, AHAHAHAHA,, thats a good one,,, thats right up there with the Flacons dont have a deepthroat on their Rooster and Superbowel,,,, good stuff,,,

kirkinga

June 14th, 2012
4:50 pm

The Braves had injuries during Leo’s tenure, but not this many,at the same time, and not throughout the staff.

All the vaunted pitching depth it was said the Braves possessed throughout the system has not turned out to be true. All of a sudden, there isn’t much pitching talent or position players in the system. Perhaps it is time to hire new people to do the evaluating and drafting?

Ralph

June 14th, 2012
4:52 pm

Chipper may want to stick around another year or two now, his bank balance will be slightly less after this one cleans his plow.