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Veteran reliever Jim Johnson returns to Atlanta

Reliever Jim Johnson is coming back to the Braves.

We don’t really need to supply the numbers. The Braves bullpen was awful last season, particularly in the second half of the season.

Okay, we’ll supply the numbers anyway. Atlanta’s bullpen had the second-worst bullpen ERA in baseball last season with a 4.69 ERA. We don’t even want to look at what that stat was after the All-Star Break.

So that’s going to be a huge area the Braves will want to improve this offseason, and they are off to a very good start. Monday the Braves announced they have brought back reliever Jim Johnson, who was part of an effective bullpen in the first half of last season.

Johnson resurrected his career with Atlanta. He pitched in 49 games and had a 2.25 ERA with nine saves. The Braves then traded him to the Dodgers in the Alex Wood – Hector Olivera trade in July. But Johnson struggled in Los Angeles, posting a 10.13 ERA in 23 relief appearances.

The Braves are confident Johnson can once again be effective in the bullpen. They have already brought back David Carpenter on a minor league deal, and the Braves are confident Jason Grilli will bounce back from his Achilles’ heel injury and be ready for opening day.

With Grilli, Johnson and Carpenter joining young Arodys Vizcaino, the Braves top end of the bullpen already looks better. But they are not finished. The Braves continue to talk with free agent reliever Darren O’Day, who is the most sought after free agent reliever on the market right now.

Johnson was so impressive in 2012 with 51 saves and then had 50 saves in 2013 for the Orioles. But then he fell off drastically in 2014, posting a 6.92 ERA in Detroit and a 7.14 ERA in Oakland. The Braves were thrilled when he bounced back last season under pitching coach Roger McDowell.

The Braves would like Vizcaino to get the first crack at the closer’s job, but Johnson provides a great backup plan in case Vizcaino needs more time or struggles.

Johnson is 32 years old and has now been in the big leagues since 2008.

Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WPLA Fox Sports 1670 AM in Macon and online at Follow Bill at and email him at

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