Braves look for answers to pitching problems
General manager Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez have gotten the team into a pitching pickle that they'll spend Thursday's off day trying to sort out.
Two weeks ago, on May 29, right-hander Kris Medlen, the most versatile man in the bullpen, was sent down to Class AAA Gwinnett to get stretched out with the intention of coming back as part of the rotation. That's how poorly rookie right-hander Randall Delgado and left-hander Mike Minor were pitching. Their inconsistencies were causing their pitch counts to mount and the bullpen to be called on too much.
Meanwhile, already down in Gwinnett was right-hander Jair Jurrjens, once an ace of the rotation, and a man who's being paid $5.5 million. That he was too inconsistent to recall is notable.
But while Medlen was toiling in the minors, Delgado and Minor turned in steadily better performances. But the Braves lost games in which Medlen would have been the ideal candidate to come on in relief.
No one can know whether the results would have been different had Medlen been in the bullpen. But right now, it certainly looks as though his time and energy have been wasted in Triple-A and cost the Braves at least two wins, including Tuesday's, when the bullpen gave up six runs to the Yankees in the eighth inning.
Before Wednesday's game, Gonzalez said "it would be hard" to demote Delgado and Minor after the way they've responded recently. And he stressed once again that Medlen's return was never guaranteed, not even as a reliever. Nevertheless, he is expected to be back with the Braves, possibly as soon as Friday. His last start for the G-Braves was Tuesday.
Right-hander Brandon Beachy was given a few more days rest because of recent lowered velocity, and right-hander Tim Hudson is dealing with bone spurs in his left ankle. But unless one of them is placed on the disabled list, there's no room for Medlen in the rotation.
--2B Dan Uggla played in his 1,000th career game Wednesday. His goal is to play all 162 games this season, and he's already played in all of them, for all but two innings. He came out of Sunday's game after seven innings in the 12-4 loss to the Blue Jays.
--CF Michael Bourn is riding a 13-game hitting streak, which ties the career mark he set last July before being traded to the Braves. He's batted .393 (22 for 56) during the streak.
--RHP Chad Durbin's 1 2/3 scoreless innings Wednesday versus the Yankees was his 16th consecutive scoreless appearance, comprising 13 innings pitched.
--SS Andrelton Simmons had his picture taken with his boyhood idol, Andruw Jones during the Yankees visit to Turner Field this week. Jones has kept up with the players who were on Simmons' Little League championship team from Curacao. They were his guests at Turner Field when Simmons was 11.
--RHP Kris Medlen pitched six innings in his third stretch-out start for Class AAA Gwinnett Tuesday. He allowed three earned runs on six hits and four walks, and struck out four.
QUOTE TO NOTE
"We've got a bunch of low-maintenance guys out there." -- LHP Eric O'Flaherty, on the bullpen's interchangeable roles.