C-n-C Mailbag: Joey Devine
It seems to me like the Braves really don't trust Joey Devine. Whenever he has been called up this season, he just never gets used and Manny Acosta was called up over him the other day. What do you think his future is with the team?
I think Braves fans are making way too much out of the lack of use that Devine has had with Atlanta this season. There seem to be conspiracy theories every time Devine is called up that Bobby does not trust the reliever. I don't think that is the case at all though. The pressure that is put on some young relievers as the "future closer" seems to really take its toll mentally. They feel the pressure to succeed, get rushed to the majors, and then something in their head just prohibits them from having success. The number 26 and 27 picks from the 2005 draft, Craig Hansen and Joey Devine, have both had that happen. What has become the way to deal with such a meltdown is basically to completely reteach the basics to the player.
Devine pitched only 26 innings after getting drafted in the minors before making his way to Atlanta. In his first appearance he gave up a grand slam and we all know what happened in the playoffs. Devine was not included on the 2006 opening day roster and did not immediately start in the minors. He started his year battling injuries in extended spring training and was disappointing in Myrtle Beach. It all kind of seemed to click for him when he moved up to Mississippi for the end of the year but control issues plagued him once again when he was called up to the majors. I wouldn't say that he had completely slipped off the prospect map then, but not many still believed he could be a closer. He's obviously come back this year but still the organization is taking it easy with him. When he has been called up it has been for a short time and he has not been used in pressure situations. They don't want to take any chances of him slipping back into the rut he was in last year.
This is his last option year so he'll almost certainly start out next year in the Braves bullpen after pitching his way back onto the prospect scene this year. Bobby will still probably use him carefully in the beginning of the year. It will be a while before we see Devine enter with runners on base or in a tight game, but he has the stuff to be a great reliever. Control has been his problem in the majors and that is obviously a mental block considering his numbers in the minor leagues. Presumably one or both of Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano will take over the closer role for at least the next couple years. Could Devine be worked into that role eventually? Definitely and I still think that is where he is headed. Just don't think that Bobby doesn't trust him or doesn't like him. The organization is just being careful with his development and after seeing way too many pitchers get rushed to the majors, I completely agree with what they are doing.
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Rob D. Writes,