Coming into Spring Training, it looked like Tyler Yates had impressed Bobby and his coaching staff enough that the 29-year old righty would be basically be guaranteed a spot in the Atlanta pen. Chad Paronto was the one that most of us thought would have to continue fighting for his spot, but after the addition of an impressive changeup this offseason, his performance has all but secured a spot in Atlanta's plans for opening day. With Yates' lackluster 5.63 ERA (including 5 walks in 8 spring innings) have not exactly blown away those high up in the organization. We always say that it is someone's job to lose in spring training, and Yates may be letting this slip away.
Bobby Cox announced today that Blaine Boyer, one of the candidates for the last spot will join Joey Devine, who was already cut from the spring roster at AAA Richmond to begin the year. Cox said that Boyer needs innings following the rotator cuff surgery that forced the 24-year old Boyer to miss the entire 2007 season. Boyer posted a very nice 1.29 ERA in 7 innings this spring, but the team wants to see him prove he can pitch on a regular basis with no ill effect. This leaves Yates, Peter Moylan, and Buddy Carlyle as the remaining pitchers who have a shot at the last spot.
None of these three has a full season of work under their belt at the major league level so far in their careers, but all three have shown the ability to pitch effectively.† Yates is a hard thrower, who held batters to a .228 BAA last year but struggled with his control. He certainly impressed the team enough that they could look past his control problems and see the potential of a very good reliever. An offseason has past, and it doesn't seem like he has sorted out those problems.† Moylan got some major attention after a good showing for the Australian team in the World Baseball Classic, and the side-armer has been good this spring with a 3.38 ERA and 7 strikeouts in 8 innings so far. Moylan has looked good in his limited major league action this past year, but got absolutely rocked in his time at Richmond. He does have a good sinking fastball that gets a lot of grounders, which works in his favor, but I still don't think he has done enough to earn that last spot. Carlyle is the least known of the three, but has been the best so far this spring with a 1.29 ERA. Carlyle was very good in the minors last season with a .177 BAA for Florida's AAA team and may actually be pitching his way onto the major league roster after being a non-roster invitee.
Right now Yates is still the favorite, but Carlyle could beat him out in the next week. Either way, they will have to pitch well because Joey Devine, Blaine Boyer, and maybe even Will Startup will be pitching for a callup. Bobby is not only going to have a short leash on Wickman at the end, but also the bottom of the bullpen. There is a lot of talent there in the organization, and I am sure that is a problem that Bobby loves after last season.