Eddie Perez likes the situation he is in.
Perez, the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves, has a busy couple of months ahead of him as the team prepares for spring training. The Braves’ roster is full of prospects, and his task will be to help put those prospects in the roles best suited for them.
“We have a lot of pitchers, and we have a lot of young pitchers,” said Perez, a former catcher who joined the coaching staff in 2007. “We’re going to have a busy spring training this year to try to figure out which ones are going to stay and which ones are going to make the team and which ones are going to (Triple-A) Gwinnett. It’s going to be tough for the coaching staff to pick that, and that’s a good problem to have.”
Two of those young pitchers, Craig Kimbrel and Randall Delgado, joined Perez as the Braves toured Macon on Tuesday as part of the annual Braves Caravan. They made a public appearance at the Academy Sports + Outdoors store on Eisenhower Parkway, as well as stops at Northeast and the Children’s Hospital at the Medical Center of Central Georgia.
Those pitchers will be part of a competitive spring training. There are 22 pitchers on the active roster, and with lingering injuries raising questions for key veterans like Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson, any combination of them could end up making the team when the Braves leave Walt Disney World and head up to New York for the April 5 season opener against the Mets.
An mlb.com report published Monday said Jurrjens (knee) and Hanson (shoulder) should be ready in time for spring training, while Hudson is still recovering from back surgery.
“For me, every time is like a competition,” said Delgado, a rookie last year who had a couple of spot starts during the summer and became part of the rotation in September, finishing with a 1-1 record and 2.83 ERA. “And right now, there’s a lot of competition with the young pitchers and the better ones out there. I just need to focus on this new year and work hard and be healthy.”
A sign of the Braves’ depth -- both at pitcher and among position players -- was the lack of roster moves during the offseason. The team did not make any major deals, choosing to go with the players it already has in the system.
“I’m fine with that,” Perez said. “I know that everyone made moves in our division and got some big hitters, but I don’t think that we needed anybody. I think we’re fine with what we’ve got. Hopefully we’ll stay healthy and be OK and be a contender in our division.”
The Braves’ young pitchers started to emerge last year. Several of them put up good numbers, although a late-season collapse that saw the Braves give up an 8.5-game lead in the NL wild-card race resulted in a bitter ending when the team was eliminated on the final day of the season.
Kimbrel, who became the Braves’ closer last year after putting in some work with the big-league club in 2010, quickly became one of the top finishing pitchers in the majors. The 23-year-old picked up 46 saves in 79 appearances, striking out 127 and holding opposing batters to a .178 average.
“I worked hard in the offseason and expect to have as good a year as I did last year or even better,” Kimbrel said. “My catchers, Mac (Brian McCann) and (David) Ross, they helped me out tremendously. I can’t say it was all me. They helped me out a lot.”