Originally posted on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 5/20/13
The long-powerful bullpen of the Atlanta Braves is undergoing a huge overhaul six weeks into the 2013 season. First, Jonny Venters had Tommy John surgery, ending his season. Next, newly-acquired Jordan Walden was placed on the DL with an inflamed shoulder. Finally, this weekend, Eric O'Flaherty was placed on the DL with a torn UCL, and will more than likely need Tommy John surgery as well. When you put everything in a nice little package with a bow on it, the Braves are missing four of their top five relievers (in terms of innings pitched) from a year ago. Along with Venters and O'Flaherty, Chad Durbin joined the Phillies as a free agent this winter (though that is more an addition by subtraction move), and Cristhian Martinez was placed on the DL during the season's first week with a strained shoulder. Throw in Kris Medlen's transition to the rotation last year after 54 1/3 relief innings in 2012, and the only current Atlanta relievers with at least 20 innings last season are Kimbrel, Luis Avilan, and Cory Gearrin. It's unfortunate that this run of bad luck is happening to the Braves right now, because the team is carrying a six man bench right now due to Evan Gattis, Jordan Schafer, and Ramiro Pena playing extremely well and making it impossible for any of the three non-veterans to be demoted to AAA. Outside of Kimbrel, Avilan, and Gearrin, Atlanta's bullpen consists of David Carpenter, Anthony Varvaro, and Cory Rasmus. Rasmus was just called up this weekend, and has yet to make his major league debut, but is your typical minor league live arm. Varvaro has spent time in the majors with the Braves over the last three seasons, but has been in the majors since Opening Day this year, and his performance will likely keep him up. Finally, there's Carpenter, who spent time with the Astros and Blue Jays last year before getting dealt to the Red Sox in the John Farrell trade, and then winding up with Atlanta on a waiver claim.  So to say that it's a changing of the times in Atlanta is probably an understatement. The team is also embarking down the veteran route to solidify the pen, trading for former Oriole Luis Ayala (and promptly placing him on the DL with an anxiety order), signing former Mariner Kameron Loe (who has been dreadful this year in the majors) and assigning him to AAA, and even signing former Pirate Joe Beimel, who didn't pitch at all in 2012 while recovering from Tommy John surgery. Are the Braves doomed? Of course not, that's silly to say in mid-May. Thusfar, the team's bullpen has a 2.65 ERA, which is the best mark in all of baseball. While losing O'Flaherty's dependable 2.50 ERA will hurt, getting Walden back and hopefully having his luck turn around (4.85 ERA, 1.49 FIP, .436 BABIP) will help out a lot. In addition, there may be other help on the farm, including flamethrower Juan Jaime (who struck out 73 in 51 1/3 innings last year with high-A Lynchburg), stud starter Alex Wood (who the team is steadfastly refusing to move out of the rotation, which is probably a smart move), and perhaps even Wirfin Obispo (who nearly won a job in the bullpen out of Spring Training). But what Frank Wren has done better than anyone during his tenure as Braves GM is build cheap bullpens. With O'Flaherty hitting free agency after the season, the team was likely already preparing for life without him. With Venters missing time with pain in his elbow last year and this spring, the team had contingency plans in place for him. With Walden's injury history, the team likely wasn't expecting a 70 inning performance out of him. While it may look like Atlanta is in a bad position missing their three of their top relievers, the team isn't panicking, and as long as Kimbrel remains healthy, they'll be fine. [follow]

This article first appeared on The Outside Corner and was syndicated with permission.

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