Braves face decision with Beachy’s return

sports@macon.comJune 11, 2013 

It’s a dilemma, but yet it’s not. It’s one of those “good” problems for a baseball team to have, and the only drama is in trying to figure out what the Braves are going to do about it.

Atlanta has one of the best rotations in baseball. The 3.36 ERA for the starting five was the third best in the major leagues entering Tuesday’s play. All five pitchers have done very well, and yet there’s someone else knocking on the door to get into the rotation.

Brandon Beachy is scheduled to pitch one of the games in Tuesday’s doubleheader against the New York Mets at Turner Field. He has been out for almost a year after having Tommy John surgery on his elbow, but, after a few rehab assignments in the minors, Beachy is close to returning.

But how are the Braves going to find room for Beachy? It’s not like they have a weak link in the rotation. Before Monday’s game, the Braves’ starters had a streak of nine games in a row where they had allowed two runs or fewer.

Mike Minor has emerged as the ace and is probably an all-star. He’s 8-2 and has a 2.44 ERA and has had only one bad game all season (April 28 in Detroit). Going back to last July, Minor is 15-6 with a 2.32 ERA in his past 28 starts.

Don’t even think about asking Kris Medlen to go back to the bullpen. Yes, Medlen has the most experience as a reliever, but he has a 2.87 ERA in his 13 starts this season and a 2.83 ERA in his career as a starter.

Julio Teheran allowed five runs Monday, and that was his first subpar game since mid-April. Teheran has a 2.66 ERA in his past nine starts and has showed he belongs in a big league rotation.

Tim Hudson is the veteran, and while his overall ERA is 4.48, he simply has endured trouble on the road this year. His ERA at Turner Field is 2.39, while his mark away from Atlanta is 6.52. Hudson is a free agent at the end of this season, and who knows what his long-term future holds. But, for right now, Hudson is still valuable.

And then there’s left-hander Paul Maholm. He’s also a free agent this winter, and with all the arms it’s unlikely Maholm will return next season. But it’s not like he needs to be pushed to the bullpen to make room for Beachy. Maholm has a 7-4 record with a 3.46 ERA.

The Braves pretty much have four options. They can put an existing member of the rotation in the bullpen to make room for Beachy. They could put Beachy in the bullpen after his start Tuesday. They could go with a six-man rotation, spacing out all the starters to give them extra rest. Or they could decide to try and trade one of the existing five starters.

You have to wonder if Beachy deserves the special treatment to get his rotation spot back. It’s almost like some believe he’s saying, “Well, I should have never lost my spot in the first place. I was pitching better than anyone else in baseball when I got hurt. Give me the spot back.”

He’s not saying that, of course. But even though he looked like the best pitcher in baseball when he got hurt, we’re talking about a pitcher who has 41 starts in his career. It’s not like the Braves are making room for John Smoltz to come back.

This is not an easy decision, but the need for help in the bullpen provides an opportunity for Atlanta to use the excess to get a top reliever. If I’m Frank Wren, the general manager, I let other teams know that Maholm is available for a reliever or two. You know Maholm is a lame duck, so as long as Beachy proves he’s healthy let Maholm get the Braves significant bullpen help.

Sure, the Braves need insurance in case one of the starters gets hurt or if Beachy is not back to normal. But hasn’t rookie Alex Wood showed us he could probably fill that role? He has done well so far in the pen, and if they got a reliever in a deal for Maholm, then Wood becomes your backup for the rotation.

Trading Maholm might not be easy, but he should have value despite being a rental player for the rest of the year. This just seems to be the only answer for a dilemma that does not have an easy solution.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at www.foxsports1670.com. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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