The Braves’ revolving bullpen: 18 relievers and counting

If you don’t like the Braves’ bullpen today, check back in a day or two. It’ll probably be different then.

Less than two months into the season, the Braves have used 18 relief pitchers in games. Only two of them have been on the active roster continuously from opening day until now. Take a bow for your longevity, Luke Jackson and Josh Tomlin. Six pitchers in the bullpen today weren’t there when the season began.

Veteran right-hander Anthony Swarzak, acquired Monday from Seattle for Arodys Vizcaino (out for the season after shoulder surgery) and Jesse Biddle (designated for assignment last week), is the latest addition to the revolving 'pen.

The comings and goings have been constant. Shane Carle has been optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett four times and recalled three times. Touki Toussaint has been recalled three times and optioned twice. Wes Parsons has been optioned twice, most recently Monday to make room on the roster for Swarzak. Six relievers have been on the injured list at one time or another: Vizcaino, Biddle, A.J. Minter, Chad Sobotka, Jonny Venters and Darren O’Day.

The revolving door shows no signs of slowing. Just last week, veteran left-hander Jerry Blevins, whom the Braves acquired from Oakland in late April (reportedly for $1), was designated for assignment one day and re-signed to a major-league contract four days later. That odd series of events encapsulates the story of the 2019 Braves bullpen.

If you’ve lost track – and who hasn’t? – these were the Braves’ bullpen members on opening day (and where they are now): Jackson (still here, now as the improbable closer), Tomlin (still here), Vizcaino (Seattle, out for season), Biddle (Seattle), Venters (free agent after being released Saturday), Sobotka (injured list), Carle (Gwinnett) and Parsons (Gwinnett).

Or to look at it another way: Of the eight relievers on the active roster today, two opened the season in Atlanta's bullpen (Jackson and Tomlin), three opened it at Gwinnett (Dan Winkler, Toussaint and Jacob Webb), two opened it in other organizations (Blevins and Swarzak) and one opened it in the Braves' starting rotation (Sean Newcomb, who was demoted to Gwinnett in mid-April and recalled for a bullpen role in early May).  Newcomb recorded his first save in the Braves' win Monday night in San Francisco.

Others who have pitched in relief for the Braves this season include Max Fried (two appearances before settling into the starting rotation), Bryse Wilson, Grant Dayton and infielder-outfielder Charlie Culberson (one inning).

You might recall that when the Braves reported to spring training Vizcaino and Minter were projected as closers and Sobotka as at least a promising middle reliever. Vizcaino appeared in four games before season-ending shoulder surgery. Minter, who opened the season on the injured list, appeared in 15 games before being sent to Gwinnett with a 9.82 ERA. Sobotka had an 8.25 ERA in 13 games before going on the IL.

The latest move, the acquisition of Swarzak, is a wash for the Braves’ payroll. That’s because the Mariners are sending the Braves about $1.8 million to offset the difference between what the Braves will owe Swarzak for the rest of the season (about $5.7 million) and what Seattle will owe Vizcaino and Biddle.

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