Veteran southpaw Billy Wagner posted a superb 1.43 ERA and 0.87 WHIP over 71 appearances for the Braves last season, saving 37 games and striking out 104 batters in 69.1 innings. He was ridiculously good, but he wanted to go out on top and called it quits as soon as the year was over.
Most teams would struggle with that kind of loss, but the Braves are rolling right along.
David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution spoke this week with 22-year-old Craig Kimbrel, who is expected to battle 25-year-old Jonny Venters for the Braves’ ninth inning gig this spring. (For what it’s worth, O’Brien thinks Kimbrel is going to win it.)
“I’m ready to get things rolling,” Kimbrel said during Braves pitching camp at Turner Field on Tuesday. “It’s going to be a fun year. I’m just going to come in, get ready to pitch on the mound. Whatever role it’s in, I’ll be ready for it.”
Kimbrel, a righty, struck out 40 batters in just 20.2 innings last season during a short but impressive debut for the Braves. Venters, a lefty, also finished with great numbers — like a 1.95 ERA and 93/39 K/BB ratio.
Relievers are generally overrated, or at least over-discussed. After all, it’s hard to have much of an impact on a 162-game schedule when your contribution spans something like 50-60 innings. But the Braves are undoubtedly loving the fact that they have two cost-effective fireballers around to handle tight situations.
The Blue Jays announced on Monday that outfielder Jose Bautista has been activated from the 15-day disabled list. To create room on the roster, the club designated outfielder Junior Lake for assignment and optioned 1B/OF Chris Colabello to Triple-A Buffalo.
Bautista was sidelined for five weeks dealing with turf toe, suffered when he banged his left foot against the base of the wall in right field at Citizens Bank Park. He’ll return hitting .230/.360/.455 with 12 home runs and 41 RBI in 286 plate appearances.
Neither Lake nor Colabello provided much in their time with the Jays. Colabello, who served an 80-game suspension after testing positive for a performance-enhancing drug, had just two singles, two walks, and an RBI in 32 plate appearances. Lake hit .206 with a home run in 38 PA.
Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reported on Monday morning that the Marlins are considering Mariners starter Wade Miley as a potential upgrade to the starting rotation. Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY reported on Sunday that the Phillies were scouting the lower level of the Marlins’ minor league system in preparation of a potential trade involving starter Jeremy Hellickson.
The Marlins were already on the prowl for rotation help before putting Wei-Yin Chen on the disabled list on Sunday due to a sprained left elbow. Behind Jose Fernandez and Adam Conley, the rotation is underwhelming as Tom Koehler has a 4.42 ERA, Jose Urena 5.34, and Jarred Cosart 7.98 albeit over three starts.
Miley, 29, will earn $8.75 million next season and has a club option for the ’18 season worth $12 million with a $500,000 buyout. This year, his first with the Mariners, the lefty has posted a disappointing 5.23 ERA with a 73/33 K/BB ratio in 105 innings.
Hellickson, 29, is owed the remainder of his $7 million salary for this season and will be eligible for free agency heading into 2017. The former Rookie of the Year Award winner been a reliable innings-eater for the Phillies, posting a 3.84 ERA with a 106/27 K/BB ratio in 119 2/3 innings.