Braves righty Arodys Vizcaino is healthy and rejuvenated. As such, he may be reclaiming his closer duties.
Vizcaino missed 55 games on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. He was in the midst of a career-year, boasting a 1.65 ERA with 15 saves. A.J. Minter stepped in as closer in his absence.
When the Braves were three outs from clinching a division title Saturday, they turned to Vizcaino – Minter had a heavy workload recently – and he silenced the Phillies in a 5-3 win.
Manager Brian Snitker praised Vizcaino, who’s pitched four games since returning in mid-September, and produced three scoreless outings. If the Braves are positioned to narrowly defeat the Mets on Tuesday, Vizcaino would be the arm to which they turn.
“He’s available (Tuesday), and if we have a lead in the ninth inning, he’ll be the guy we go to,” Snitker said. “He threw as good Saturday night as he has all year. … He can be a huge, huge part of the bullpen, as we’ve seen the last couple outings. He’s been really good.”
The Braves don’t want to overwork their recovering closer. After all, he returned from his first DL stint only to rediscover shoulder pain. The team wanted to get him back to full-speed by the end of the regular season.
Back-to-backs may be part of that equation, though not a necessity. Snitker is comfortable with Vizcaino’s progression. If he isn’t feeling comfortable to the point of pitching consecutive nights, the organization won’t force the issue.
“Towards the end of the week we’ll assess again if we want to get him a back-to-back before we finish the year,” Snitker said. “And if we don’t, we don’t. I’m not going to push him hard, but if we have a lead in the ninth inning tonight he’s going to be pitching.”
Minter, meanwhile, has been inconsistent in the closer role, not unexpected given it’s his first complete season in the majors. He’s walked five over the past 8-1/3 innings, with opponent’s on-base percentage reaching .368.
Vizcaino could step back into the ninth inning, where he’s converted 29 of 32 save chances since taking over the job from Jim Johnson late last July. The Braves have several arms to use in high-leverage spots, but plugging Vizcaino into the last spot will help sort the postseason bullpen.