Brandon Beachy is scheduled to make his last rehab start this Thursday for the Mississippi Braves in the Southern League with the timetable for his return to the Atlanta Braves scheduled for June 18 — his first MLB start since June 16 last season.
Barring any setbacks, the Braves will be faced with a tough decision, and both general manager Frank Wren and manager Fredi Gonzalez have been quiet in regards to their plans. Honestly, they may not know what they will do just yet.
In analyzing all the options, the Braves should utilize a six-man rotation from June 18 until the All-Star break and evaluate the options at that time. During that time period, the Braves play a double-header and go through a stretch of 16 straight days without an off day. All the games during that stretch would not throw off the starters’ routines much and would be a good opportunity to make sure Beachy returns to his old form.
Doing anything with their current starters would be a rash and immature decision. Moving Julio Teheran to the bullpen or minors would stunt his development as he’s quickly becoming the pitcher everyone envisioned him to be. Kris Medlen has experience in the bullpen, but we saw him become the team ace at the end of last season, and he has allowed zero earned runs in his last two starts. He is a starter — and potential ace — and his best value for the team is doing just that. Tim Hudson will not move to the bullpen or be traded — his track history with the Braves runs too deep, and he too has pitched effectively in his past few outings. Paul Maholm could be a trade candidate but doing so in June with the uncertainty of Beachy’s return would not be smart. Injuries could happen to anyone on the rotation, so Wren may as well have some insurance with the trade deadline at the end of July.
The most popular of those options amongst fans seems to be using either Beachy or Medlen in the bullpen as a set-up guy. Why?
The Braves rank third in the National League with a team bullpen ERA of 2.86, trailing only the San Francisco Giants who hold the top spot at 2.83. When leading after seven innings, the Braves are 24-4, and closer Craig Kimbrel blew three saves in those losses. While not the most flashy, Luis Avilan, Jordan Walden, Cory Gearrin and Anthony Varvaro have gotten the job done as set-up men.
Wren should realize the benefits of temporarily using a six-man rotation. The All-Star break will be the right time to evaluate each starter and the value they bring to the team. At that time, the Braves can make a long-term decision if they still have six quality and healthy starters.
Remember, while it’s a tough decision, this is a good problem to have. Most teams would love to have the dilemma of having too much pitching. Don’t mess it up by making a rash decision in June that could cause problems come September and October.