Eric O’Flaherty is returning to the Atlanta Braves.
The Braves gave their former ace reliever a hearty welcome following the announcement:
Welcome back to Atlanta, Eric O'Flaherty! pic.twitter.com/60jM0LHatQ— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) March 27, 2016
The crafty lefty has a five-pitch repertoire, per FanGraphs, that includes a four-seam fastball, a sinker, a slider, an off-the-table curveball and a strong changeup.
Such an arsenal made him a coveted target for a Braves bunch that has a huge need for southpaw relievers—particularly one who's had such success against left-handed hitters.
General manager John Coppolella said O’Flaherty caught his eye during a spring training game against his club just last week.
"When we saw him, [his fastball] was 89-92 [mph] and he had the good hard slider," Coppolella said, per Bowman. "He struck out [Braves third baseman] Hector Olivera with that slider. We've seen how he used to run in against right-handers with that slider. He used to really eat them up.”
O’Flaherty, 31, underwent Tommy John surgery while playing for the Braves in 2013 and hasn’t been quite the same pitcher since. He finished last year with an 8.10 ERA and 2.167 WHIP in 30 innings over 41 games with the New York Mets and Oakland Athletics.
But during a run from 2009 to 2013, he was arguably the top reliever out of the Braves bullpen outside lights-out closer Craig Kimbrel. O’Flaherty and Kimbrel tallied the best ERAs among qualified relievers from 2010 to 2012 at 1.59 and 1.46, respectively, per Bowman.
Coppolella said the chance to add a veteran the Braves know and are comfortable with was also a huge sell, per Carl Kotala of the Associated Press:
We've been trying to find a left-hander all spring. He's somebody we know. When our scouts saw him and when our field staff saw him, we felt like he was somebody who could help us out.
Obviously, we know this guy's great off the field. He was great on it with us. We're hoping he can fill a need a help us get better.
O’Flaherty’s return to the Braves is a win-win for both parties.
He's currently on a minor league contract, per Rotoworld, meaning he’ll be a cost-effective addition for a team that's firmly in rebuild mode. And for the lefty, it’s a shot at redemption in the latter stages of his career.