Simmons could give Braves a power arm to complement Vizcaino

PITTSBURGH – The Braves could have hard-throwing reliever Shae Simmons back from his long elbow-surgery rehab soon, and they certainly need him.

Of the three pitchers the Braves were counting on most at the back of their bullpen, veteran Jim Johnson had a 7.90 ERA in 15 appearances before landing on the disabled list with a groin strain, and 39-year-old Jason Grilli has a 6.94 ERA in 15 appearances and hasn’t regained his form after season-ending Achilles surgery last summer.

The only one of the three who’s excelled is closer Arodys Vizcaino, with a 1.10 ERA in 16 appearances and 23 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings.

Simmons, who had three strikeouts and allowed one hit and one walk in one inning in his first rehab game Monday at Triple-A Gwinnett, could potentially give the Braves an effective setup man and backup closer to Vizcaino. Simmons had Tommy John surgery in February 2014 and the Braves were cautious in bringing him back on a slower rehab protocol than they’ve used in the past.

Grilli gave up a game-ending homer to switch-hitter Kendrys Morales in the 13th inning Sunday at Kansas City, and in close-and-late situations he’s now allowed a .367 average (11-for-30) with three extra-base hits , a .495 OBP and .567 slugging percentage. Left-handed batters were 7-for-20 (.350) with a .500 OBP and .600 slugging percentage against him through Sunday.