FOX Sports South.com checks in with play-by-play announcer Chip Caray to get the latest on the Braves.
FOX SPORTS SOUTH: Let’s focus on Brandon Beachy, who has back-to-back wins in which he’s allowed a combined two earned runs. How have you seen him progress over his four starts since returning from Tommy John surgery?
CHIP CARAY: I think confidence is a big factor for him.
The pitchers I’ve talked to in the past that had Tommy John surgery, they get through the rehabilitation exercise, begin their rehab games and have some success, obviously, and they progress through. But all of them to a man have said in the back of their heads ‘You don’t really know until you get between the lines in a major league game to see how things happen.’
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(Former Cubs star) Kerry Wood, for example — and I’ve used this on the air — said ‘I’ve got a really good, hard slide,’ and his first four-five starts after surgery, every third one would be perfect, one would be awful and one would be close enough for the hitter to do something with. But then he’d throw one and it would come out of his hand perfectly, felt good coming out of his hand and it would just spin like a cement mixer and that ball would be whacked hard someplace.
That, I think, is the most difficult aspect of it. The pitcher obviously feels good, his mechanics are good, his stuff is good, but the results sometimes aren’t and I think we’re all wrapped up in the results more so than the progression.
But with Beachy, yeah, he’s gotten progressively better with each passing start. I think his last two starts his breaking stuff has been a lot better and I think that comes from command, it comes from confidence and it comes from knowing that he can throw the pitch without fear of getting hurt physically or getting hurt in the realm of the baseball game and make an effective pitch.
FSS: You mentioned it and Beachy has been at his most effective with breaking balls. He says he’s not worried about velocity on his fastball. But being that is his best pitch, how closely do you think the Braves are monitoring it?
CC: Oh, I’m sure they’re paying close attention to him, there’s no question about that.
The reason pitchers throw off-speed pitches is to get hitters off their good fastball. Bobby Cox said for years ‘If you give major league hitters enough time, they can time a jet.’ If a guy comes up there and throws 102 mph seven or eight pitches in row, sooner or later they’re going to catch up to it and put the ball in play.
Hitting is timing and pitching is disrupting that timing and that’s what a good breaking ball does. It doesn’t have to be a strike; it just has to be close enough for the hitter to think it’s a strike.
I think that’s something Brandon was figuring out, where he could throw his pitches and figuring all that out on the fly after his surgery. As I said, the last two starts, very effective, very good stuff and hopefully that will keep up.
You have to remember he’s still building up arm strength. It’s very different pitching in minor league games. From what I’m told the competitive juices just aren’t the same as pitching in a major league game and that added stress takes a lot out of you from a physical standpoint, I’m told.
I’m not worried about his fastball; I’m not worried about any of that stuff. I’m more worried about how he feels coming out of ballgames and he’s thrown great the last couple of times out.
FSS: If he does continue to make these strides, how difficult of a decision is there facing Fredi Gonzalez when it comes to his playoff rotation?
CC: I think we all make it out to be a difficult decision, but ultimately as we’ve said all year long, those decisions take care of themselves.
We’re in a time of that year that from a managerial standpoint and from an organizational standpoint, you don’t play favorites now. The best pitches pitch, the best hitters hit and the best defenders defend.
If Brandon Beachy continues to progress I’m sure he’s going to be in that conversation.