Vizcaino not out of closer conversation
Right-hander has conceded recent save chances to rookie Cabrera
CHICAGO -- Arodys Vizcaino was used in the eighth inning of Wednesday afternoon's loss to the Phillies, and he sat dormant as impressive newcomer Mauricio Cabrera recorded the final three outs of Thursday night's 11-inning win over the Cubs. But Braves manager Brian Snitker says he has not taken the closer's role away from Vizcaino.
"We're just trying to win the game today, whatever it takes," Snitker said. "We've got a lot of baseball left to play. We're finding out a lot about a few of these guys, and what we're finding out is good. Down the road, I think it will make the whole bullpen scenario even better."
Vizcaino stood as a potential All-Star and an attractive trade piece through this season's first 23 appearances, during which he posted a 1.52 ERA, limited opponents to a .253 on-base percentage and converted six of the seven opportunities he compiled. But the 25-year-old right-hander has produced a 5.11 ERA and allowed opponents to produce a .443 OBP over his 15 appearances, dating back to the blown save he endured on June 7 in San Diego.
While pitching for the fourth time in six days on June 28, Vizcaino surrendered two hits and issued two walks while facing just seven Cleveland hitters. He made just two more appearances over the seven days that preceded him allowing Freddy Galvis' go-ahead two-run homer in the eighth inning of Wednesday's loss to the Phillies.
"Guys go through slumps, and you've got to work your way out of it," Snitker said. "He'll be fine. It's just good we have some other options that we can go to."
Because Vizcaino was pitching with four days of rest, Snitker used him in Wednesday's eighth inning with the hope he'd complete a two-inning save. His extended struggles in that outing led the Braves to decide not to use him unless necessary on Thursday.
Dario Alvarez recorded three strikeouts in a perfect 10th inning on Thursday and then surrendered two consecutive singles to begin the 11th inning. With Vizcaino essentially unavailable, Cabrera entered and displayed his triple-digit fastball and an effective changeup to record his second save since making his big league debut on June 27.
Cabrera, whose fastball has been clocked as high as 103 mph, has allowed one run through the first five innings of his career. The Braves aren't going to give him the closer's role at this early stage of his career, but they've certainly been encouraged to see he is a potential option for the future.
Vizcaino's recent struggles might have significantly reduced the odds of him being traded before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline. But if he rebounds and Cabrera continues to impress, the Braves might find themselves thankful next season to have a strong two-headed monster at the back end of their bullpen.
"I haven't given [Cabrera] many easy opportunities or anything clean just to start an inning," Snitker said. "He's had some stressful situations, and he's done a great job. He's very confident. Why not? If I had 100 or 101 in my arm, I think I'd have a little confidence too."