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.