The 2014 Braves didn’t get a single relief appearance from a pitcher in his 30s. With John Hart at the helm, the 2015 Braves are going in a much different direction with the bullpen.
34-year-old Jose Veras is Hart’s latest pickup for the relief corps, joining Jason Grilli, Jim Johnson, Josh Outman and Matt Capps. Like Capps, Veras is getting a minor league deal, though he seems like a pretty good bet to claim a spot.
After saving 21 games with a 3.02 ERA in 2013, Veras received a one-year, $4 million deal to close for the Cubs last year. He was an immediate bust, amassing an 8.10 ERA in 13 1/3 innings, but after rejoining the Astros, whom he pitched for during the first two-thirds of 2013, he had a 3.03 ERA and a 37/16 K/BB ratio in 32 2/3 innings. Over the last three seasons, he had a 3.64 ERA and a 189/89 K/BB ratio in 175 2/3 innings.
As things stand now, Craig Kimbrel, Grilli, Johnson and James Russell would seem to be guaranteed spots in the Atlanta bullpen. Outman and Veras will be clear favorites for two of the three remaining spots. Ideally, Shae Simmons would be there, too, but the youngster needs to prove he’s healthy after missing most of the second half of last season with shoulder troubles. Lefties Luis Avilan and Ian Thomas will also provide competition.
The Yankees’ 2019 run ended in heartbreak on Saturday night when, despite a stunning ninth-inning comeback, they fell 6-4 to the Astros and officially lost their bid for the AL pennant. Now, facing a long offseason, there are a few decisions to be made.
One of those falls on the shoulders of outfielder Aaron Hicks, who told reporters that he “thinks he can continue playing without Tommy John surgery.” It’s unclear whose recommendation he’s basing that decision on, however, as MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch points out that Tommy John surgery was recommended during the slugger’s most recent meeting with Dr. Neal ELAttrache.
Hicks originally sustained a season-ending right flexor strain in early August and held several consultations with ElAttrache and the Yankees’ physician in the months that followed. He spent two and a half months on the 60-day injured list and finally returned to the Yankees’ roster during the ALCS, in which he went 2-for-13 with a base hit and a Game 5 three-run homer against the Astros.
Of course, a handful of strong performances doesn’t definitively prove that the outfielder is fully healed — or that he’ll be able to avoid aggravating the injury with further activity. Granted, Tommy John surgery isn’t a minor procedure; it’s one that requires up to a year of rest and rehabilitation before most players are cleared to throw again. Should Hicks wait to reverse his decision until he reports for spring training in 2020, though, it could push his return date out by another six months or so.