Braves Starting Rotation in Turmoil

Medlen has struggled in July

Medlen has struggled in July

The Atlanta Braves starting pitching rotation was predictable the first three months of the season.  Tim Hudson, Paul Maholm, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran, in that order, were rolled out against opponents from day one.

While the bullpen and other positions on the team were in flux due to injuries and inconsistent performances, the starting rotation was rock solid and predictable.

But times have changed for the Braves’ starting rotation and we are now in a position to speculate about what is going to happen as the season moves forward.  Calm, placid waters, have been replaced by turmoil.

We all knew that at some point Brandon Beachy would probably return, we just didn’t know when.  The question always was, who would he bump out of the starting rotation.  The conventional wisdom was that Paul Maholm would be traded, due to his contract, to make room for Beachy.

Maholm left Saturday’s game with a wrist injury and that now muddies the waters.  Will the Braves be able to trade Maholm before the deadline if he misses a couple starts?  If he misses a start, will the Braves have to showcase him at least one start before the deadline, so teams can see that he is healthy?  If they are unable to trade him, will Maholm move to the bullpen?

It was a surprise move when Alex Wood started in Gwinnett last Thursday night.  At the time, it appeared he was optioned out to make room for Jose Constanza, to cover the outfield injuries.  He had pitched 3+ innings on Friday night and wouldn’t have been available to pitch Saturday and Sunday before the All-Star break.

What we hear is that the Braves are “stretching him out” at Gwinnett so that Wood can start.  But whose spot would he take in the rotation?  Is he insurance if Beachy has another setback?  Are the Braves looking to move two starters out of the rotation?  Medlen is 1-2 in July with a 7.63 ERA and has given up 26 hits in only 15.1 innings.  Could Medlen be headed to the bullpen?

Kameron Loe was called up from Gwinnett Sunday to apparently add the seventh arm to the bullpen.  But could he make a start or two or more?  He started four games at Gwinnett and was effective, posting a 1.80 ERA.  Loe is an experienced starter, having made 47 starts in his nine-year major league career.

The Braves starting rotation may have been stable and predictable the first three months of the season, but times have changed.  What scenarios do you think will play out in the next few weeks with the Braves’ starting rotation?

  • Bob Long

    I think turmoil is too harsh a word.

    First, there has been no indication that Maholm will be placed on the DL or miss a start.

    Second, rotational depth is extremely important for a team with a lot of young arms in the rotation. If the Braves need to limit innings for anyone, or give a guy a breather to preserve him for the playoffs, a stretched out starter is absolutely necessary.

    Third, just because 2 men are working in the rotation in AAA, and both have been effective in the majors, it is not a sign that changes are imminent. See, for example, Kameron Loe.

    Fourth, neither Beachy nor Wood have to return to Atlanta this year. Beachy could be working in AAA the rest of the year, getting the rust off his pitches. Wood has minor league options and can move between Atlanta and Gwinnett several times, if necessary.

    No, turmoil is the wrong word. I think of the rotation, perhaps, in a state of transition. Because, as you have pointed out, some changes are coming.

    • Jim Hart

      Bob, I initially questioned my use of the word “turmoil” and sought out a definition before proceeding. Here is the definition I came across: “A state of great disturbance, confusion, or uncertainty.”

      Considering that 2 of the 5 starting positions will most likely change in the next 7-10 days, and that there is quite a bit of uncertainty and confusion as to what will happen, in my opinion that fits the definition of turmoil.

      With Maholm now on the DL and Medlen struggling and the uncertainty of Beachy and now Loe in the picture, I think there is turmoil in the sense that things are changing and no one really knows how it will all shake out based on variables like Maholm’s health and Beachy’s rehab. I am very comfortable using turmoil.

      Of course now we have found out since that Maholm is in fact going to be DL’ed.

      • Bob Long

        So, I guess, I stand corrected! :)