LOS ANGELES – Braves rookie reliever Shae Simmons was placed on the 15-day disabled list Tuesday with a sore shoulder that he said has bothered him for perhaps a month, but which he hadn’t said anything about until the weekend.
The Braves recalled Juan Jaime, another hard-throwing rookie reliever, from Triple-A Gwinnett to take the roster spot of Simmons, who accompanied the team to Los Angeles for the start of an eight-game, three-city road trip.
“I held off telling them a little bit, because I didn’t think it was too serious,” Simmons said before Tuesday night’s series opener at Dodger Stadium, “and I thought stretching it and everything would help. I told them just a couple of days ago, maybe Saturday or Sunday.”
Simmons wowed the Braves and opposing hitters for nearly six weeks after being brought directly from Double-A to the majors on May 31. He posted a 0.96 ERA and .172 opponents’ average in his first 20 appearances through July 11, with 19 strikeouts and six walks in 18 2/3 innings.
But in six appearances since then he was 0-2 with a 15.00 ERA and .333 opponents’ average, with four strikes and five walks in three innings, along with the first homer he had allowed in more than 120 innings of pro ball at any level.
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“No throw for a few days and see where he’s at,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who doesn’t believe the injury is anything serious and thinks Simmons could be ready soon after the minimum period. “I don’t expect it (to take) much longer than 15 days. I really don’t.”
Simmons, 23, walked two of three batters he faced in his last outing Saturday against the Padres, two appearances after he gave up two hits, two runs and two walks while recording just one out and taking the loss July 21 against the Marlins. That was the second consecutive appearance in which he gave up two runs and two hits without making it out of an inning.
“It had been bothering me for a little bit, just more tight than anything,” Simmons said. “I felt real limited on my movement, especially coming back (at the top of the arm motion in his delivery). But we’re working on it. It’s starting to feel better already.”
Gonzalez said he thought the workload and intensity of pitching in pressurized situations against major league hitters were among the factors that probably contributed to Simmons developing a sore arm. And after serving as closer in the minors, he also has had to deal with the more unpredictable nature of setup and middle-relief work in the majors, including warming up multiple times in some games without ever getting in the game.
“. All that put together, I think that’s where we are with him,” Gonzalez said. “With his stuff, in Double-A he eliminates seven hitters even in a good lineup,” Gonzalez said. “You get to the big leagues, now he’s going to have to work a little harder (to get outs), and also back-to-back days, and with stressful, high-intensity type innings. I’m sure it’s just a matter of growing, learning in the bullpen.”
After arriving from Double-A, Simmons pitched in 20 of the Braves’ 39 games from May 31 through July 11.
Asked if the shoulder had begun to bother him during the last road trip before the All-Star break, when he faced two batters July 13 at Chicago and was charged with a walk and a run, Simmons said, “It might have been ever a little before that. It’s hard to tell (how long). I mean, especially right now, there’s so much (going on), trying to get my housing and all that stuff along with ball.”
After issuing two walks in his first 18 appearances through July 1, Simmons walked five batters in his next four appearances, including two games before the All-Star break and two after.
Jaime’s second look: It’s the second major league callup this year for Jaime, who impressed with a 97-99 mph fastball and sharp-breaking curve when he was up earlier. In four appearances for the Braves, he had seven in four innings while allowing one hit (a homer), one walk and one run.
Jaime had converted 16 of 17 save at Gwinnett and had a 3.79 ERA with 55 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings.