Atlanta’s Brando Beachy ready for center stage

Atlanta fans know the Brandon Beachy story. The rest of the
baseball world may know it soon enough.

The Braves right-hander Beachy may go from being someone no
Braves fan had heard of two years ago, to being the anchor of this
year’s staff. He made his first major league start in a
mid-September game in Philadelphia during the 2010 pennant run.

He was replacing Braves starter Jair Jurrgens back then. Now the
25-year-old Beachy needs to step up again with Tim Hudson sidelined
until May with a back injury, and Tommy Hanson and Jurrjens
battling minor injuries.

Longevity will be a key for Beachy this season.

He went at least seven innings in only two of his 25 starts last
season. He is trying to limit his pitch count to go further into
the late innings when he can turn the ball over to closer Craig
Kimbrell.

”The strikeouts are nice,” Beachy said. ”but I need to cut
down on the pitches so I can get deeper into the game. This year I
am concentrating on limiting my pitches.”

Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez has the same goal in mind instead
of Beachy going after five quality innings.

”The fifth is the inning that gets to some pitchers,” Gonzalez
said. ”It would be perfect to get him to the eighth. But that kid
has it all figured out.”

Not bad for somebody who estimates he might have thrown six
innings for Northwestern High School in Kokomo, Ind. Beachy was an
infielder who spent time as a closer at Indiana Wesleyan
University.

He was discovered in a Virginia summer league by a Braves scout
who offered a bonus to sign with nothing but potential on the
horizon. He spent 2009 in the Braves low minors.

Beachy had a 2.17 ERA in Triple A before the Braves called him
up to the big leagues for that stretch run in 2010. He started 25
games last season – more than he started during his minor league
career.

Beachy said he wasn’t expecting to make it to the majors as
quickly as he did but his attitude on and off the mound shows he
feels like he belongs. He is a potential Opening Day starter,
depending on the condition of Hanson and Jurrjens.

Braves’ pitching coach Roger McDowell said it is the mental
toughness that makes Beachy an important member of Atlanta’s
staff.

”We never rushed him,” McDowell said. ”He’s a strong kid with
a great work ethic. This year he will; play a pivotal role on our
staff.”

For now, Beachy is the No. 3 man in the rotation. By the time
Hudson returns, it will be up to Beachy to see where he fits into
the rotation.