Needing lefty, Braves bring back O'Flaherty

Atlanta sends cash considerations to Pittsburgh for reliever, who has been tough on southpaws

March 27th, 2016
Eric O'Flaherty allowed eight runs (three earned) on 15 hits in 9 1/3 innings for the Bucs this spring. (AP)

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- After getting a first-hand look at Eric O'Flaherty last week, the Braves opted to bring their former reliever back to fill their need for a left-handed reliever.

Shortly after arriving at Space Coast Stadium for Sunday's game against the Nationals, Braves general manager John Coppolella revealed that he had acquired O'Flaherty from the Pirates for undisclosed cash considerations.

"When our scouts saw him and when our field staff saw him, we felt he was somebody who could help us out," Coppolella said. "Obviously we know this guy is great off the field. He was great on [the field] for us. We're hoping he fills a need and helps us get better."

Since the start of Spring Training, the Braves have had at least five left-handed relievers who seemingly could legitimately hope to begin the season in Atlanta's bullpen. But, when Ian Krol was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday, non-roster invitee Alex Torres stood as the only member of this group who was still in big league camp.

Having still not decided whether they will be comfortable with utilizing Torres as one of the two left-handed relievers they want to carry in their bullpen, the Braves opted to take a chance on the familiarity they have with O'Flaherty, who has already been placed on Atlanta's Major League roster.

Unfortunately for O'Flaherty, he has not yet returned to the dominant level he was at before he underwent Tommy John surgery while pitching for the Braves in 2013. He showed some promise when he returned during the 2014 season and posted a 2.25 ERA over 20 innings with the A's. But he compiled a 8.10 ERA and allowed opponents to produce a .427 on-base percentage as he totaled 30 innings with the A's and Mets last year.

Coming off his disappointing 2015 season, O'Flaherty surrendered 15 hits and allowed eight runs -- three earned -- in the 9 1/3 Grapefruit League innings he completed this spring for the Pirates. He surrendered two hits and did not issue a walk while facing 11 left-handed hitters. One of his best outings occurred on Monday, when he recorded four strikeouts and surrendered two hits over two scoreless innings against the Braves.

"When we saw him, [his fastball] was 89-92 [mph] and he had the good hard slider," Coppolella said. "He struck out Hector Olivera with that slider. We've seen how he used to run in against right-handers with that slider. He used to really eat them up."

During his previous tenure in Atlanta, O'Flaherty teamed with Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters to provide the Braves a dynamic late-inning trio. Kimbrel (1.46) and O'Flaherty (1.59) compiled the top two ERAs among all qualified MLB relievers from 2010-12.

When O'Flaherty compiled a 0.98 ERA over 73 2/3 innings in 2012, he became the first reliever in MLB history to record a sub-1.00 ERA while recording at least 70 innings in a season.

O'Flaherty could make his first appearance for the Braves during Monday night's game against the Astros at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex.