2003 Pitching Preview

One of Baseball's biggest questions for 2003 is the Atlanta Braves pitching staff. Loosing two pitchers with double digits in wins and triple digits in innings dosen't bode well for the perennial contenders. Renee Gore takes a look at the Braves pitching staff for 2003.

For little more than a decade, that Atlanta Braves never seemed to worry about pitching coming out of Spring Training. This season that all changed. The departures of Glavine, Millwood, and Moss from the rotation and Remlinger, Hammond, and Ligtenburg from the bullpen, leave the Braves with many questions. Will Hampton return to form outside of Colorado? Will Byrd continue to build on his success with the Royals? Can Hernandez and King replace Remlinger and Hammond in the bullpen? Let's take a look at players and some possible answers to these questions.

The Starting Five
Greg Maddux: While he hasn't looked anything like one of the best pitchers of all time in his first two starts, there is no need to panic. Look for Maddux to get his 15 wins and have and an ERA around 3.00 by season's end. It was also encouraging to see him pitch seven innings in his first start after all the talk about him becoming a five-inning pitcher.

Horacio Ramierz:So far, it looks like Horacio may be 2003's Damian Moss. However, it seems as though Horacio may have a better future ahead of him than Moss. Don't be surprised to see him become a staple in the Braves rotation for years to come.

Russ Ortiz:Coming over in a trade for Damian Moss, Ortiz brings consistency to the Braves rotation. He had a decent showing for his first start for the Braves. It will be interesting to see how he fairs pitching outside of Pac Bell for an entire season.

Jason Marquis: After what can only be described as a disappointing spring, Marquis was guaranteed a spot in the rotation after Hampton went down with a calf injury. Marquis made the most of his opportunity during his impressive start against the Marlins on Friday night. It will be interesting to see if Marquis can carry over this success to the rest of the season.

Mike Hampton:After coming off of 10 scoreless innings in his last two Spring Training starts and finally looking comfortable on the mound, Hampton injured his calf muscle. Keep an eye on how he performs when he is able to return from the disabled list. Expect him to slowly work his way closer to the pitcher he was with the Mets and Astros.

Paul Byrd: Byrd was hit by the injury bug, even before Spring Training. He only pitched one inning in during the spring and was unimpressive in his recent rehab start. The Braves might hold him back longer than expected. When he returns, look for nothing more than average pitching from Byrd.

The Bullpen
John Smoltz:There's not much one can say about Smoltzie. He has pitched very well in his two appearances so far this season. He should remain as dominate as ever this season. The Setup Men (Holmes, Hernandez, King): This threesome has struggled mightily so far this season. Don't look for that to continue. All three are proven veterans with past and recent success. They should right the ship and become a very reliable combination to set up Smoltz for the ninth.

The Setup Men (Holmes, Hernandez, King): This threesome has struggled mightily so far this season. Don't look for that to continue. All three are proven veterans with past and recent success. They should right the ship and become a very reliable combination to set up Smoltz for the ninth.

Kevin Gryboski: Kevin had a nice first half in 2002, however, he quickly declined in the second half. Expect him to pitch more like he did in the second half this season. Also don't be surprised if, by mid season, he is replaced by one of the rookies.

The Rookies (Joe Dawley, Jung Bong): Unlike the veteran setup men, these two rookies have faired much better this season. They should be contributors to the success of the bullpen. However, their individual futures in the bullpen may depend on how things shake up in the rotation.

The look of the Braves pitching staff may change often this season with pitchers traveling in and out of the rotation. The first major change will come when Hampton returns to the rotation. No matter how things shape up, look for the Braves' staff to remain a strong point on this team.

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