Avilan getting much-needed lefty help in bullpen

Entering Saturday’s game against the Cubs, Luis Avilan had pitched in 46 games — tied for the most of any reliever in the big leagues. He’s been the team’s only lefty reliever since Dana Eveland was designated for assignment July 5.

But he’s getting two lefty buddies who could reduce his workload in the second half.

The Braves signed lefty Ross Detwiler on Friday and Andrew McKirahan is set to return July 20 after serving his 80-game suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

“(It’s) not even using him, but getting him up for that possibility of getting one left-hander,” manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “Now we have Detwiler to do that job. … It’s big. You have the luxury of adding McKirahan, and that’s even better for Avilan.”

Avilan said he didn’t even know he’d pitched in that many games and that his arm feels fine.

“I try to stay away from the numbers,” he said. “I just know how many games I give up runs and that’s it. … I prepared myself to me mentally prepared to go at least 75 games again this year, so I feel good.”

The Braves signed Detwiler, who was released by the Rangers, on Friday. He didn’t wait long to debut, getting Anthony Rizzo to ground out with runners on first and second in the fifth inning Friday night.

“(The Braves) kind of sat me down right before I came here and said I’d be facing lots of lefties to begin with,” Detwiler said. “So in watching the game I was kind of getting prepared whenever lefties came up. So I was in there and I was prepared, and I really know what my job here is going to be and I’m comfortable with that.”

Gonzalez said Detwiler mostly will be a lefty specialist for now, but that his role could expand over time.

Detwiler began the season as a starter and was 0-5 with a 6.95 ERA through seven outings. Texas then moved him to the bullpen, where he compiled a 7.71 ERA with 14 hits, five walks and six strikeouts over 9 1/3 innings.

He spent the previous six years with the Nationals, during which time he pitched 64 2/3 innings against the Braves, with a 3.06 ERA.

“That’s one of the reasons I ended up signing here,” Detwiler said. “It’s a team I kind of know from across the diamond. I know how well they play defense, and I don’t strike out many people and rely on my defense a lot. So it’s kind of a no-brainer going for this defense.”

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