MILWAUKEE -- Though trades and injuries have altered its makeup over the past few weeks, the Braves' bullpen has started to take shape, courtesy of the rapid development of Mauricio Cabrera and José Ramirez (reliever). The young right-handers proved dependable yet again during Monday night's 4-3, 12-inning win over the Brewers at Miller Park.
"It's kind of a nice mix of interchangeable pieces in that bullpen right now," Braves manager Brian Snitker said after his team won for the ninth time in its past 13 games.
As the Braves have looked toward the future and gained a sense of who they might want in next year's bullpen, they have recently traded left-handed relievers Dario Álvarez and Hunter Cervenka before their values began to fade. Setup man Chris Withrow was placed on the disabled list with a sore throwing elbow on Monday, and former closer Arodys Vizcaíno is about a week away from returning from the DL.
But with Ramirez, Cabrera and rejuvenated veteran Jim Johnson, the Braves are starting to feel they have the stability that the back end of their bullpen has lacked during most of the past two seasons.
"We're in a good spot for sure," Gordon Beckham said. "When you get Cabrera and Jim coming out eight and nine, it just seems like it's more of a lockdown situation than it was at the beginning of the year. There's some good things happening."
Johnson converted his seventh consecutive save opportunity on Monday night, and he has posted a 1.57 ERA over 28 2/3 innings since returning from the disabled list in early June. The former All-Star closer might be increasing his value for a potential trade, but he also is providing necessary reliability to preserve the contributions of Ramirez and Cabrera.
"He's been through the wars, and he's been nothing but good ever since he came back off the DL," Snitker said.
Cabrera has lit up radar guns with triple-digit fastballs on a consistent basis, and he also proved he can throw strikes on a consistent basis -- 19 strikeouts and six walks over 20 2/3 innings. But more importantly the rookie has shown mental fortitude. He surrendered three earned runs on the road against the Rockies on July 21 and then worked seven consecutive scoreless innings that included two hits, two walks and 11 strikeouts.
After allowing two runs on Saturday in St. Louis, Cabrera responded with a perfect ninth inning on Monday. He buzzed Hernán Pérez's brow with a 99.6 mph pitch to begin the inning and was fortunate when the 101-mph pitch he threw to Chris Carter resulted in a fly ball that Matt Kemp caught near the left-center-field wall.
Ramirez worked two scoreless innings ahead of Cabrera and notched the last of his three strikeouts with two on to end the eighth. He has worked seven scoreless innings since being recalled from Triple-A Gwinnett.
"They all were good, and they have been," Snitker said. "They've been handing that ball off to each other and picking that ball up for a while now."