For the first time in several years, executives with the Atlanta Braves are scouring their organization and putting out feelers looking for pitching.
Since the early 90s, pitchers like Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux and John Smoltz were taking to the mound for the Braves and mowing down the opposition.
Even after the original “Big Three” moved on from Atlanta, the team was able to develop a number of decent arms from its farm system and on occasion make a big splash in the free agent market to keep them in the playoff picture.
The Braves made it into the postseason in 15 of the last 21 seasons. Atlanta would have made it 16 except a late-season collapse last year allowed the St. Louis Cardinals to slip in the backdoor en route to a world title. If it wasn’t for a strike in 1994 wiping out the final portion of the season, the Braves may have caught the Montreal Expos and advanced to the playoffs for the 17th time during this stretch.
When Atlanta missed the postseason for four straight seasons from 2006 to 2009, the organization was in the early stages of developing pitchers which are now the centerpiece of its resurgence. During this stretch, the Braves used Jorge Sosa, Kyle Davies, Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson and Brandon Beachy.
Sosa was a flash in the pan after posting a 13-3 record and a 2.55 ERA in his first year with the team and Davies was unable to live up to high expectations.
Jurrjens, Hanson and Beachy, on the other hand, are expected to be in Atlanta’s rotation for years to come.
Jurrjens is a question mark. He seems to pitch his way in and out of the lineup. After a bad 2010 season, Jurrjens rebounded with a 13-6 record and a 2.96 ERA to guarantee himself a start every five days this year.
The only problem is the 26-year-old seems to be allergic to success. Following a rough April, Jurrjens found himself standing on the mound 36 miles to the northeast in Lawrenceville, Ga. pitching for the Gwinnett Braves.
Beachy, who has been the team’s best starting pitcher, will have to bounce back after undergoing Tommy John surgery last month. He will miss the rest of this season and more than likely a good part of next year as well.
Until Beachy’s elbow injury, the trio could have been projected to be this generation’s “Big Three” for the Braves.
With Beachy out and an unknown quantity in Jurrjens, this leaves Atlanta’s brass hoping to reel in another arm to make a run for the NL East title this season and the next few years.
— Sports editor Shawn Stinson can be reached at 910-997-3111, ext. 14, or by email at email@example.com