Braves should send young arms to Instructs

It's not punishment, but instead a chance to make the pitchers better for the long-term.

The Braves have decided pitching is the way to go as they remake the organization. They’re right. You can never have too much pitching. That’s why they’ve traded for a lot of young arms and emphasized pitching in the draft in June.

Teams must have tremendous patience with young starting pitchers. The only good part about the Braves being awful and out of the race this early is they can simply let the young starting pitchers get experience – both good and bad experience.

They have assembled the best group of young pitchers since the late-1980s, which was the last time the organization was rebuilding. All five current starting pitchers are under the age of 25, with three being acquired in the many trades the team has made since the new front office took over last November.

But the young starting pitchers, particularly Mike Foltynewicz, Matt Wisler and Williams Perez, are struggling. They show glimpses of pitching well, but then will struggle the next time out. That’s typical for many young starting pitchers.

They need confidence, and it’s hard to get that when you’re losing baseball games. Ask Tom Glavine and John Smoltz about that. Long before they became Hall-of-Famers, they too were young pitchers who struggled as they were getting their feet wet in the big leagues.

Here’s what the Braves should do this October. They should demand that their young starting pitchers attend the Instructional League in Florida. Now the Instructional League is usually for continued development of rookie players, most of who have just been drafted. But it wouldn’t be the first time the Instructional League has been used for other issues.

In 1982, after winning the National League MVP award, Dale Murphy was asked by then-manager Joe Torre to go to West Palm Beach and work on hitting to the opposite field. Murphy obliged, and he did so well the next season he won a second straight MVP award.

But for a guy who just won a MVP award to go to the Instructional League was unheard of. If Murphy can do that, what would be wrong of having a training session for the young pitchers? Nothing. It would be tremendous for their development.

I’d ask Julio Teheran and Shelby Miller, the two veterans of the young staff, to come as well. But this would be mainly for the young kids who are just starting out. The starting pitchers who are in Triple-A and Double-A, who are knocking on the door of the big leagues would also be ‘asked’ to go.

Then I would have Glavine and Smoltz spend time with these kids. I’d ask them to share stories of what they went through as young pitchers trying to find their way. They should tell the good stories and the bad, and how the bad led to a whole lot of good in their careers. But both would likely say if not for the rough times early on, they might not have made it to Cooperstown.

But the Braves shouldn’t stop there. They should also invite other pitchers from ‘The Young Guns’ of the late-1980s to join Glavine and Smoltz. Let Pete Smith, Kent Mercker, Tommy Greene and Steve Avery show up as well. Allow those guys, who struggled a bit more than the other two, to share their stories.

Even let boisterous former pitching coach Leo Mazzone come and scare them a bit. That might help. The goal would not be to make these kids think they have to be Hall of Famers one day, but instead to let them learn that they are not the first human beings to go through this in a Braves uniform. They might believe right now they are alone on an island. But this has happened before, long before they were even born.

These pitchers are tremendously important to the potential resurgence of this franchise. Providing the pitchers more training, even if it’s as much for off-the-field development as on-the-field instruction, could possibly allow them to reach their potential.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at http://www.foxsports1670.com/. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at thebillshanksshow@yahoo.com.

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