Derek Lowe to the Bullpen Could Be the Braves' Best Move

Tim AltorkCorrespondent IAugust 24, 2009

DENVER - JULY 09:  Starting pitcher Derek Lowe #2 of the Atlanta Braves looks on from the dugout on the eve of his start against the Colorado Rockies during MLB action at Coors Field on July 9, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockies defeated the Braves 7-6.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

With the impending return of Tim Hudson to the Atlanta Braves' major league roster, the Braves will be facing a dilemma that many teams would love to have to solve: six starting pitchers, five spots in the rotation.

The music is set to stop in this game of starting rotation musical chairs in early September when Hudson returns. And a lot of the speculation about who will be left without a seat has focused on Kenshin Kawakami and Tommy Hanson.

But it seems to me that the most logical move would be to take the man with the most bullpen experience out of the rotation.

That man is Derek Lowe.

Lest we forget, from 1999-2001 Lowe saved 81 games for the Boston Red Sox before converting to a starter. It's been almost 10 years, but he has the experience to pitch in a pressure-packed, late-inning situation.

That experience would be invaluable in a bullpen that, in an all too familiar pattern, has tired down the stretch from overuse.

Also, Lowe has been streaky as a starter all year. He began the season pitching like gangbusters. But since then, he has gone through a boom and bust cycle that has compelled Bobby Cox to repeatedly bust out his trademark hat lift/head scratch that is usually reserved for incompetent umpires.

However, I would be very surprised if Cox moved Lowe out of the rotation.

For one thing, Lowe is the Braves' highest paid pitcher. He was awarded that fat contract to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. Moving him to the bullpen would be an odd allocation of financial resources.

Secondly, Bobby Cox is fiercely loyal and deferential to veteran players when it comes to major moves like this.

In the two similar moves that have taken place in the past—Chipper Jones to the outfield in 2002, and John Smoltz to the bullpen in 2001—the principal parties gladly agreed to the moves.

Those moves would not have happened otherwise.

I'd be surprised if Derek Lowe, who is known to have his weekly workout routines planned out to the exact minute, decided to agree to such a move at the most crucial juncture of the season.

I'm guessing that the Braves will be thorough and explore all their possibilities, but in the end they'll either settle on a bizarre six-man rotation or move Hanson or Kawakami to the bullpen.

But purely from a performance perspective, Lowe would be the logical choice to remove from the rotation.