BOSTON -- The Braves have not decided how Luiz Gohara will be utilized when he returns from the bereavement list. But as the latter stages of Friday night's 6-2 loss to the Red Sox elapsed, there was further reason to believe the big southpaw might be best utilized as a
BOSTON -- The Braves have not decided how Luiz Gohara will be utilized when he returns from the bereavement list. But as the latter stages of Friday night's 6-2 loss to the Red Sox elapsed, there was further reason to believe the big southpaw might be best utilized as a reliever.
When Braves manager Brian Snitker opted to go with Matt Wisler while trailing by one run in the seventh inning, he highlighted concerns about the bullpen's depth. Wisler had displayed a swing-and-miss slider in a couple of the spot starts he made this year.
But when Wisler promptly surrendered a two-run homer to Mookie Betts in the seventh and then allowed Mitch Moreland's solo shot in the eighth, he created further reason to question why he was deemed the best option in this situation.
"I thought with the improvement in his breaking ball, it was a good time to use [Wisler]," Snitker said. "We were behind. Who knows? The next two days we might be in a situation where we want to use the other guys. When we're behind, we're going to have to have some other guys help us bridge [to the late-inning guys]."
Snitker was understandably trying to protect right-handed relievers Dan Winkler and Shane Carle, who have been the club's most reliable relievers thus far. Both are already on pace to make more than 70 appearances during their first full season as a Major Leaguers. But given the Braves had an off-day on Thursday, there seemingly should have been a better option than Wisler within the eight-man bullpen.
Left-handed reliever Jesse Biddle surrendered a leadoff single to Brock Holt and then retired the next two batters he faced in the seventh. With the right-handed-hitting Betts coming to the plate, Snitker opted to pull Biddle -- who has surrendered four hits and issued four walks within 39 plate appearances against right-handers.
With Lucas Sims and Wisler both up from Gwinnett, Snitker wasn't exactly working with optimal bullpen depth, while accounting for the fact the Braves were going to play again in 15 hours and have to cover Monday's doubleheader against the Mets. But even if he wanted to stay away from Winkler and Carle when trailing, it seemed the better option would have been to either stick with Biddle or bring Peter Moylan out of the 'pen to face Betts.
Had Gohara or another multiple-inning option other than Wisler or Sims been in the bullpen, Snitker could have either used one of them to face Betts or at least been comforted by the fact they could cover some of the innings he was targeting Winkler or Carle to fill over the next few days.
The Braves gave Gohara a chance to start Wednesday night's game before he traveled to Brazil to be with his mother as she recovers from heart surgery. But when the hard-throwing lefty returns next week, it might be best to put him back in the bullpen role he filled most of this month.
Gohara's best long-term value might be realized as a starting pitcher. But given he has the potential to provide the same kind of multi-inning-relief reliability the Brewers have received from Josh Hader, it seems his presence could significantly strengthen the Braves' bullpen depth.
Odds and Ends
• Anibal Sanchez completed three scoreless innings for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday and now stands as the most likely candidate to start Tuesday night's game against the Mets. Sanchez has been sidelined since April 18 with a right hamstring strain.
• Mike Soroka threw 25 pitches off a mound in pain-free fashion on Friday. Soroka, who is on the 10-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, will likely complete another mound session before making a rehab start.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.