For the second time in less than two months the Braves reached deep in the minor leagues to bolster their bullpen.
The Braves called up left-hander Chasen Shreve from Double-A Mississippi Saturday. The team also sent struggling left-hander Luis Avilan to Triple-A Gwinnett.
“It’s a little breathtaking,” said Shreve, who arrived from Birmingham, Ala. Saturday morning hours before the Braves hosted the Phillies.
The Braves called up right-hander Shae Simmons from Double-A on May 31. He has pitched 20 innings with a 1.35 ERA with 21 strikeouts and seven walks in his 22 appearances.
Shreve, 24, had a 2.48 ERA with 76 strikeouts and nine walks in 54-1/3 innings this season. His was 3-2 with seven saves.
Shreve said he features a fastball in the 91-94 miles per hour range, a slider and changeup. He said he assumes he will be used in the left-hander vs. left-hander role. However, manager Fredi Gonzalez wouldn’t use that narrow definition in his use of Shreve.
“(He) has pitched unbelievable baseball in Double-A,” Gonzalez said of Shreve. “We’ve been talking about this for a week or so. We decided with a bunch of left-handers that the Phillies have, bring him up and give him a shot. All the reports that I’ve gotten from our minor-league coaches is that this guy throws strikes, has a good breaking ball, holds runners, is a good athlete.”
The move also gives Avilan, himself a Double-A call up two seasons ago, a chance to work out his recent issues. Avilan has a 4.85 ERA in 47 appearances this season. Opponents are hitting .293 against him. Left-handers hit .277 (18-for-65) with a .342 on-base percentage. Right-handers hit .314 (16-for-51) with a .407 on-base percentage. With runners in scoring position, he has allowed a .282 average (11-for-39) with 11 walks and four strikeouts.
Last season, Avilan had a 1.52 ERA in 75 appearances. Opponents hit .175 and left-handers hit just .144.
“We need to get (Avilan) fixed a little bit,” Gonzalez said. “He’s not the same guy that he has been for a while. I think that was the No. 1 priority. Send him back to Triple-A, let him pitch and get fixed. What I mean by get fixed is his fastball command and his breaking ball has got to get better. When he does that, we’ll re-visit it.”
Shreve was a 2010 11th round draft pick of the Braves out of the College of Southern Nevada.
Shreve said coaches met with the M-Braves following Friday night’s game against the Barons. They said the starting pitching would need to pick it up because the bullpen was going to be short-handed. Shreve was going to the big leagues.
“Awesome experience,” Shreve said. “Everybody got up and gave me hugs.”
Simmons wasted no time in greeting his former Mississippi teammate – and handing off the pink backpack that must be carried by the youngest rookie on the team.
Shreve made his major-league debut as he entered in the seventh inning of Saturday’s game against the Phillies. He struck out Ryan Howard to end the inning. He gave up two singles in the eighth inning before being relieved by Anthony Varvaro.