After the announcement that Paul Byrd would need surgery on his "sore" right elbow (who had April 9th in the pool?) that would keep him out of action for at least two months, it became painfully obvious that the Braves were going to need to do something to shore up a starting rotation sporting 3 rookies and a Wengertized Greg Maddux. Chuck Finley was available, and he's a better pitcher than Reynolds at this stage of his career. But signing Finley would have cost a draft pick, and Finley probably isn't looking to move that far away from his California home.
The fundamental question is: How well will Shane Reynolds pitch for the Atlanta Braves? The fundamental answer is: I don't know. Reynolds was a good pitcher for Houston during the 90s. But like most of the good pitchers who were with Houston in the 90s, Shane's numbers look better than they really are. His career 3.95 ERA is impressive, but it was accrued while pitching in one of the greatest pitcher's parks of all time. (See Dome,Astro) His career park adjusted ERA is 5% better than league average. But 35 year old pitchers with back and knee issues who don't throw particularly hard don't tend to age well. Reynolds' spring performance is hardly cause for hope, but it was Spring Training, and Reynolds claims that he had no idea he was battling for a rotation spot.
Bobby Cox and John Schuerholz are pretty clearly worried at the idea of going with 2 rookies/near rookies in the rotation once Mike Hampton comes back. It's an aspect of paranoia that is shared by many GMs and managers around the league. But the question is worth asking: Is a rotation of Maddux-Ortiz-Hampton-Reynolds-Marquis/Ramirez so much better than Maddux-Ortiz-Hampton-Ramirez-Marquis?
It's not hard to see the former rotation being better than the latter. But it's hard to see it as being substantially better, and it's far from a stretch to see the rotation with two rookies outperform the more veteran group. And there is another question worth asking: Who goes when Hampton joins the team, Marquis or Ramirez? The next week will be vital for both those young pitchers, especially Marquis. Ramirez struggling is something the organization can stomach, considering his recent past. But considering Marquis' recent past, his margin for error is razor thin. He has performed well in his first two starts, but so has Ramirez, and the organization is quite infatuated with the young lefty.
It is a low-risk signing. $300,000 is a small price to pay to see if Reynolds can be a solid starter on a team that is in desperate need of one. But make no mistake, Reynolds is a reclamation project. And when the Braves rotation rounds into shape, it will feature two major projects in Reynolds and Hampton. Having one Shane Reynolds or Mike Hampton during a given season is fine. Having two at the same time is daunting, especially when the ace is getting bombed and the projects are followed by 2 kids.
The Braves haven't announced who is going to be sent down to make room for Reynolds. The obvious guess is Joe Dawley, who has done his damndest to make me look foolish for backing him in Spring Training. His 18.00 ERA, while fun to look at in awe and wonder, hasn't earned him any job security. If someone else is sent down, BravesCenter.com will update this TA as needed. Andrew Bare can be reached at AndrewBare29@hotmail.com. He encourages your mail.