Thursday, May 10, 2007

Fate is at your elbow; make yourself good while life and power are still yours

The Braves fast start is largely attributable to their revamped bullpen. Rafael Soriano, Mike Gonzales and, to a lesser degree, Tyler Yates have done much to cover for the shaky back end of the Braves' rotation and have rendered last year's late-inning breakdowns a distant memory. The Braves' opponents are finding that if they're not up by the seventh inning, they ain't gonna be up at all.

One has to wonder, however, if they can maintain the quality relief pitching all year in light of the unprecedented workloads their relievers are enduring.

At present, Rafael Soriano, Mike Gonzalez, and Tyler Yates are on pace for 88, 76, and 81 games, respectively. If Bob Wickman stays on the DL longer than anticipated, those projections could climb.

Prior to this year, Soriano's heaviest workload was 53 games, Gonzales' was 54, and Yates' was 56. While Soriano probably would have been in the 60s last year had he not been beaned in the head, all three of these guys are going to be testing the limits of their endurance this year. Things seem particularly risky for Gonzalez in light of the fact that he missed a month at the end of last year with a sore elbow, suffering a minor recurrence of it in spring training.

While there's no reason for the Braves to panic -- all three of these guys may hold up just fine -- the heavy workload their relievers have experienced intensifies Atlanta's need to go out and get another starting pitcher.