FOX Sports South checks in with play-by-play announcer Chip Caray to get the latest on the Braves. FOX SPORTS SOUTH: Some reshuffling to the bullpen with Jordan Walden back and Alex Wood has been promoted. Do you feel like this is a group that is now closer to replicating what it lost with the injuries to Eric O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters?
CHIP CARAY: I think (O’Flaherty and Venters) have established themselves as top of the line major league relief pitchers. Asking anybody to step in and do what a Craig Kimbrel, if he weren’t able to play, or a Mariano Rivera or anybody else, is really unrealistic.
I think what the Braves would like to see are all of those guys be the best versions of themselves that they can be. If Alex Wood comes in and does what Alex Wood did at Double-A Mississippi at the major league level, he’s going to be a huge addition.
If Jordan Walden pitches to the best of his capabilities nine out of 10 times he’s going to be a huge addition because of his versatility out there.
These guys have talent but the one thing they don’t have is experience and Joe Simpson and I talked about that during the last road trip in Toronto. No one is saying or ever even mentioned that these guys don’t have the ability to be very effective pitchers in high-leverage late-game situations. But that was the luxury the Braves had in not really having to worry about that with Kimbrel, O’Flaherty and Jonny Venters pitching potentially in the last three innings every night or every other night.
We’re going to see what these guys can do. They’re going to get an opportunity and we all have short memories in our game. Seven, eight years ago, everybody was wondering whether Eric O’Flaherty or Jonny Venters or even Craig Kimbrel could even do this job. Well, they obviously blossomed into the best in their profession.
Two of those guys aren’t pitching, so this is an opportunity for some of the youngsters to step up and claim their place on the stage and it’s always exciting.
FSS: They are obviously excited about that opportunity. Talking to Jordan Walden after Wednesday when the bullpen threw seven scoreless innings after Kris Medlen left with the leg injury, he said they took a lot of pride in that.
CC: Well, that was huge.
Let’s face it, the first game in Atlanta against Toronto was one of the worst they’ve played this year of any other year, with the exception of the work that those guys did in the bullpen.
They’ve got a lot of pride and they’ve got a lot of talent. The one thing about baseball is every team suffers injuries. You can’t really worry about who’s not here, you have to go forward worrying about who is here.
Obviously those relievers are here not because of injuries, but because they’re good players, they’re good pitchers. They’re talented people and I really believe that the Braves feel they are going to be put in good situations where they have a chance to succeed. Manager Fredi Gonzalez said that Thursday about Alex Wood: his job as the manager and Roger McDowell’s job as the pitching coach is to put guys into position to have the best chance of being successful.
If they are, all credit to all parties involved because the Braves will be winning lots of games with a very strong, new-look bullpen.
FSS: When it comes to Alex Wood, a lot of attention is paid to his unorthodox delivery. What is it that has impressed you the most with what you’ve seen of him?
CC: If you look at his numbers at Double-A, he throws strikes and whether you’re a starting pitcher or a relief pitcher, strike No. 1 is the most important pitch.
It’s going to be different for him, when you’re a starting pitcher you’re preparing to go out there every fifth day and perform. As a relief pitcher in the major leagues, you have to ready at a moment’s notice every day or three days in a row or sometimes four days in a row. That will be an adjustment for Alex.
But strike No. 1, out No. 1. Those are very big things for relief pitchers, who if they don’t have clean innings in high-leverage, late-game situations, have to stop things from spiraling things out of control.
Those are things relief pitchers have to concentrate on instead of managing a game or a lineup three, four or even times over nine innings.
FSS: In making room for Wood on the roster, Juan Francisco was designated for assignment. First and foremost, that means we’re going to see more of Chris Johnson at their base. But how much more valuable does this make the versatile Ramiro Pena?
CC: He’s hugely important.
He’s been very capable of stepping up and doing some of the things that Martin Prado did so well for this club. Although he doesn’t start very many games, the ability to swing the bat off the bench is great; he gives you quality at-bats.
He can play second, third or shortstop, which is his natural position. Andrelton Simmons doesn’t take many days off, so Ramiro is going to bounce around all over the place. But he’s a veteran guy and he’s very fundamentally sound and he puts the ball in play.
He just seems to have a knack for being able to put the ball in play, and making something happen with his glove or with his bat. Whether it’s in a starting assignment, where I’m sure he’ll play some for Chris Johnson, or coming off then bench, he’s been a really nice piece of the puzzle for the Braves, who really came out of nowhere to win a bench job.