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Desperately seeking starters

Gwinnett looking for next Hanson, Medlen

POSTED: July 27, 2010 1:30 a.m.
SCOTT ROGERS | The Times/

Of the 14 starting pitchers the Gwinnett Braves have sent to the mound this season, only Mike Minor (pictured) and Chris Resop have logged more than two starts and still maintained an ERA of under 4.40. Resop is currently on the DL, but Minor continues to produce at the Triple-A level.

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LAWRENCEVILLE — Stormy weather prevented Brandon Beachy from making his first start with the Gwinnett Braves on Monday. No matter; his time will almost surely come.

And when it does, he’ll be the 14th G-Braves pitcher to start a game this season.

As opposed to the big leagues, in Triple-A, 14 starting pitchers through 100 some-odd games is not an abnormally high number — Gwinnett used 20 starters in 2009. Rotation turnover is just part of the transient nature of life in the minors. Players get called up; others get sent down. One way or another, the roster gets filled.

But unlike 2009, when the major league club in Atlanta was siphoning off much of the top talent, this year’s regular G-Braves starters have only logged about five innings in the big leagues.

Yet of the five-man rotation that started with Gwinnett in April, only Todd Redmond has remained with the team throughout the season. Ryne Reynoso was released. Jo-Jo Reyes was traded. James Parr is done for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. And Chris Resop spent two innings in Atlanta before landing on the disabled list and back in Gwinnett.

“I think that’s the nature of the job,” Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage said. “Understanding Triple-A, understanding you’ve got movement in the organization, we expect the young guys to get their feet wet at Double-A and here you want to find out what we have. You want to find out what they can and can’t do.”

After helping launch the careers of big-league starters Tommy Hanson and Kris Medlen last season, Gwinnett has been starved for similar talent for much of 2010.

Only two starters —Resop and Mike Minor — have logged more than two starts and maintained an ERA less than 4.40. By contrast, six of the team’s nine relievers with more than 10 appearances boast an ERA less than 3.60.

Resop, 27, has been the team’s most successful starter, but was roughed up during his one bullpen appearance in Atlanta. After his DL stint, he rejoined Gwinnett late last week.

The G-Braves’ staff has also been strengthened by the arrival of Minor, the organization’s top pick in the 2009 draft. Since showing up in Gwinnett, Minor has continued his tear through the minors. The Vanderbilt product is 3-1 with a 2.55 ERA, 27 strikeouts and only eight walks in 24 2/3 innings through four starts.

“Everything has been positive,” Gwinnett pitching coach Derek Botelho said. “He’s got outstanding ability, great mound presence and he’s got three quality pitches. My first impression is he throws a lot harder than I had heard.”

The Braves also have high hopes for Beachy, Monday’s would-be starter.

He signed with the organization in July 2008 as an undrafted free agent and had a 1.54 ERA as a starter with Double-A Mississippi this season.

But he has spent much of his minor league career in the bullpen — of his 68 appearances, only 14 have been starts. And Minor could be approaching an innings limit for the season. Last year he worked 110 2/3 innings at Vanderbilt and 14 at Single-A Rome. He’s already up to 111 2/3 innings this season with more than a month to go.

But while the Gwinnett may be strapped for quality starters, the organization is not.

Including Minor, four of the Braves’ top 10 prospects in Baseball America’s annual list were starting pitchers. And that list doesn’t include Arodys Vizcaino, the Yankees’ former No. 3 prospect who was sent to Atlanta in the Javier Vazquez trade in December.

None of those pitchers are expected to join the G-Braves before the season ends Sept. 6, so a return to the postseason is a long shot as the team is 10 games under .500 and 15.5 out of first place in the International League South Division.

In the meantime, Brundage sees it as his job to take the talent on hand, maximize its potential and find its limits.

“You want find out what we have in the organization,” he said, “and the way to do that is to push them and challenge them and get them to this level and then see if the next level is something they can handle as well.”



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