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Evolving on fly, bullpen provided boost in '16

MLB.com @mlbbowman

ATLANTA -- One of this year's most interesting developments was the evolution of a Braves bullpen that transformed from a liability to an asset that didn't need much tinkering during this offseason.

Courtesy of Jim Johnson's rebound, a sound acquisition of Chaz Roe and the emergences of both Mauricio Cabrera and Jose Ramirez, the Braves suddenly found themselves exiting this past season with enviable bullpen depth. Now, they can only hope the late-inning dependability this group ended up providing was not an aberration.

ATLANTA -- One of this year's most interesting developments was the evolution of a Braves bullpen that transformed from a liability to an asset that didn't need much tinkering during this offseason.

Courtesy of Jim Johnson's rebound, a sound acquisition of Chaz Roe and the emergences of both Mauricio Cabrera and Jose Ramirez, the Braves suddenly found themselves exiting this past season with enviable bullpen depth. Now, they can only hope the late-inning dependability this group ended up providing was not an aberration.

The Braves' only significant offseason addition to the bullpen mix was completed when they selected Armando Rivero from the Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft. Rivero will be given a chance to be part of a season-opening eight-man relief corps that could also include a healthy Arodys Vizcaino, Johnson, Roe, Cabrera, Ramirez, Ian Krol and a long reliever (Josh Collmenter and John Danks are the top two options).

Given where the Braves were in May -- when they were actually giving Bud Norris a shot to serve as their setup man -- they certainly didn't anticipate entering the offseason feeling so good about their bullpen, which posted the National League's fifth-best relief ERA (3.49) after June 13.

Video: NYM@ATL: Vizcaino fans Nimmo for the one-out save

Vizcaino stood as one of the bullpen's few bright spots, as he posted a 1.52 ERA through the 23 appearances he made before lingering arm problems cost him the closer's role and forced him to miss most of the season's final three months. His struggles coincided with the reemergence of Johnson, who was sent to the club's Spring Training site for nearly a month to get right after posting a 7.90 ERA through his first 15 appearances.

Johnson rejoined Atlanta's bullpen on June 3 and proceeded to post a 1.76 ERA (51 innings) while converting 20 of 22 save opportunities over the remainder of the season. His early success coincided with the unexpected results provided by Cabrera, the hard-throwing right-hander who had a reputation for producing triple-digit radar readings without much control or command.

Along with providing Aroldis Chapman some competition in the battle to be distinguished as the game's hardest thrower, Cabrera produced a 2.82 ERA over the 38 1/3 innings completed after being elevated from Double-A Mississippi to the Majors in late June. There was room for improvement -- he recorded 32 strikeouts, but issued 19 walks -- but the results exceeded expectations.

Ramirez made Atlanta's Opening Day roster primarily because he was out of options and then slipped through waivers in early April when teams chose not to take a chance on another guy whose velocity had been much more impressive than his command. But after the 26-year-old right-hander returned to Atlanta's bullpen in late July, he produced a 2.05 ERA with a 29/14 K/BB ratio over 30 2/3 innings.

Krol produced a 3.18 ERA over the 51 innings he completed after being called to the Majors in May, but he also allowed left-handed hitters to compile a .326 on-base percentage against him. Roe proved to be an interesting find after he was claimed off waivers from the Orioles in early August. The veteran right-hander allowed six hits and seven earned runs while totaling one inning over two consecutive appearances -- Aug. 28 at the Giants and Sept. 1 against the Padres. But over the other 19 innings completed for Atlanta, he allowed just eight hits and one earned run.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Atlanta Braves