3 Atlanta Braves Relievers Fighting for Roster Spots in Spring Training
Heading into spring training, the Atlanta Braves have most of their big league roster set in stone, with the health of Brian McCann and the performance of Julio Teheran directly influencing the position battles of catcher and No. 5 starter, respectively.
Up in the air, though, is the final spot in the bullpen.
Barring injury, here are the relievers that the Braves will definitely roll into Opening Day with:
Craig Kimbrel, RHP
Eric O'Flaherty, LHP
Jonny Venters, LHP
Jordan Walden, RHP
Christhian Martinez, RHP
Luis Avilan, LHP
With a count of three lefties and three righties in what is probably the most dominant bullpen in the majors, Atlanta has a lot of freedom with what it chooses to do with its final bullpen spot.
Anthony Varvaro, RHP
Mark Smith of CapitolAvenueClub.com gives Anthony Varvaro the edge in the battle for the final bullpen spot due to his understanding that Varvaro is all out of options.
At 28, Varvaro is the elder statesman of the trio, but he has only logged 44.2 innings in the major leagues.
His full stats can be found here, but the picture is rather clear (rhyme unintended): Varvaro is a strikeout pitcher with a serious command issues.
His fastball is his best pitch and sits at around 93 miles per hour. He is also armed with a curveball and a changeup, but neither pitch is anything to write home about.
However, he is an effective pitcher in the right circumstances, and his lack of options could ultimately be the factor leveraging his continued stay in Atlanta.
Cory Gearrin, RHP
Cory Gearrin is probably the most talented of the trio, as evidenced by his overall body of work in both the majors and minors.
Using his deceptive sidearm motion, he has been able to absolutely baffle right-handed hitters during his time in the majors, holding them to a measly .151 BA.
Gearrin's strikeout rate is high, his walk rate has improved dramatically and he allows a high number of ground balls.
The side-arming righty possesses a fastball that hovers around 88 miles per hour, but it's his sinker and slider that really get hitters out.
However, the fact that he can only be employed against right-handed hitters is a definite drawback to allowing Gearrin a spot in the bullpen.
David Carpenter, RHP
With 60 innings under his belt, David Carpenter (whose stats can be found here) has the most experience of any of these three Braves relievers.
Carpenter's fastball is also the most explosive, as he consistently throws it at 94 mph.
The story for Carpenter is similar to the story for Varvaro: lots of strikeouts, lots of walks.
He was extremely unlucky last season (see his .422 BABIP for evidence), so he's closer to the pitcher that posted a 4.18 WHIP in 2011. But, in the end, his fastball is the only advantage he has over Varvaro and Gearrin unless he strings together a stunning spring training.
Mark Smith is right: Varvaro certainly has the upper hand in this battle, as he is out of options. That is one aspect of this race that will carry significant weight, even in spite of spring training performance.
If Atlanta is going by effectiveness, Gearrin should be the reliever that breaks camp with the Braves. Considering how effective he is against right-handed hitters, Gearrin carries a skill that Varvaro and Carpenter cannot compete with, and it should not be taken lightly.
The race will probably come down to Varvaro and Gearrin. While Varvaro is the more likely candidate to win the job, Gearrin's ability to have his way against right-handed hitters could win him the gig.