One name to keep in mind as a wildcard for the 2016 bullpen is left-hander Hunter Cervenka.
Yes, Hunter Cervenka.
He was a non-roster invitee to Cubs’ big league camp a year ago. The Cubs released him in late May and then he pitched in eight games for the Sugar Land Skeeters in June. You go ahead and google them, but let’s safely assume that’s an independent league team.
The Braves signed him on July 7 and he pitched first in AA Mississipppi. He pitched in three games and allowed just three hits in four scoreless innings, with one walk and eight strikeouts. Then he went to Gwinnett and pitched in 14 games and did not allow a run there. Cervenka allowed 13 hits in 16.2 innings, with eight walks and 23 strikeouts.
For the entire season, including his time early on with the Iowa Cubs, Cervenka allowed left-handers to hit .224 against him. In 2014 with the AA Tennessee Smokies, left-handers hit just .151 against Cervenka. In 2013, Cervenka allowed lefty hitters to bat just .114 against him in 99 plate appearances.
So obviously Cervenka’s potential is as a left-on-left reliever. But those can be very valuable pitchers out of a bullpen, and the Braves had issues with that last season.
Cervenka is 6-1 and weighs 225 pounds. He will turn 26 on January 3. He was originally drafted by the Red Sox and traded to the Cubs for Marlon Byrd. He struggled at Iowa before his release last season (a 11.08 ERA) but there is little doubt he got on track with the Braves with his 0.00 ERA in 17 games between Mississippi and Gwinnett.
It would not be a surprise if the Braves give Cervenka a big league invite to spring training or at the least bring him over from minor league camp to give him some innings in the big league spring training games.
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