The Atlanta Braves didn’t necessarily make the trade deadline splash that many fans had hoped for, but the team still addressed a key need by adding left handed reliever James Russell to the bullpen. Russell made his debut Saturday night in the ninth inning at Petco Park against the Padres, and while it wasn’t exactly a quick and easy one-two-three inning, the lefty was effective enough to get the game into extra-innings. Atlanta still has major offensive issues that aren’t going to necessarily be a quick fix, but Russell could have a major impact on the Braves’ playoff chances down the stretch by solidifying the back end of Fredi Gonzalez‘s bullpen.
Russell is an elite reliever when it comes to facing right-handed hitting, and his pitching splits back that statement up. Righties are hitting only .103 off of the former Chicago Cubs, including zero home runs and only three RBIs in 58 at-bats. There will come a point in time when Atlanta is in a crucial jam in a tight game late in the season, and if the opposing batter bats left-handed, you can bet that Russell will get him out. It will be a major luxury for Gonzalez to be able to have such a steady, reliable arm in the pen down the stretch.
Other key figures on Russell include the fact that opponents batted just .059 off the reliever in the month of June, opponents are batting slighty over .200 against him on the season and he hasn’t allowed a run against the rest of the National League East in all of 2014.
Again, the acquisition of Russell wasn’t flashy and most fans wanted to make a bigger trade deadline splash. While the Braves could have admittedly done more at the deadline, adding Russell to the bullpen will be a major boost to bullpen morale down the stretch as the Braves battle the Washington Nationals.