18. Paronto or Moylan: Who will stick in 2007

The Braves have a lot of questions to answer about the bullpen for next season, including returnees Chad Paronto and Peter Moylan. The Braves Show's Bill Shanks has more.

Chad Paronto and Peter Moylan. If we had said a year ago at this time that those two guys would have roles in the 2006 Braves' bullpen, we might have all been worried, and justifiably so.

But with all the injuries in the bullpen, both pitchers were apart of the relief corps. Paronto was a more integral part, pitching in 65 games and posting a 3.18 ERA in 65 games, while Moylan was called up three separate times from Triple-A Richmond.

Paronto had been your typical "Quad-A" pitcher, always doing well in Triple-A, but never doing well enough to stick in the big leagues. While a year ago at this time Moylan was a pharmaceutical salesman in Australia, not even knowing that his dream of being a big league pitchers would soon come true.

With Chris Reitsma, Blaine Boyer, John Foster, and Joey Devine hurt, the Braves had to have someone step up and give the team some innings. Paronto was that person. He really became a favorite of Bobby Cox, who frequently called on Paronto to get the ground out or a double play, much like Cox did with Kevin Gryboski a few years ago.

Paronto was pretty effective, although when he was pressed into a setup role he often disappointed. When Paronto was brought into the game in the sixth or seventh inning, he was much better. And if the bullpen adds an arm or two to setup Bob Wickman next season, perhaps Paronto can simply settle into the role like Gryboski had: getting out of an inning and stopping rallies.

Even though he's only pitched in the big leagues for parts of four seasons, Paronto is 31 years old. But the Braves could be enthused that he could actually get better and improve on his first season in Atlanta. Plus, Paronto is very close to Wickman, whom he played with in Cleveland. The Braves might believe that Wickman could be a good influence on Paronto and help him reach that next level as a reliever.

Moylan is an entirely different story. A pitcher back in the mid-90s when he signed with the Twins out of Australia, Moylan got hurt and then got homesick and gave up pro ball. After playing in weekend baseball leagues as a shortstop for several years, Moylan started pitching again and caught the eye of Braves' Australian scout Phil Dale.

Dale helped Moylan get a tryout for Australia's World Baseball League team, and after Moylan made that team as a side-arming reliever, Dale convinced the Braves to take a look at him. No one ignores a pitcher that can hit 96 on the radar gun, and the Braves were impressed enough to sign him to a contract – only months after Moylan had started pitching again.

The Braves placed him in Triple-A Richmond, but as the bullpen started to crumble, Moylan was called up to Atlanta in late April. It was obvious he was a bit overmatched, as he posted a 11.57 ERA in his six appearances in May. He was called up for two games in July, but he spent most of the season in Richmond – learning how to pitch.

And for that reason, you can't really be concerned about his Triple-A numbers, which on the surface were not that impressive: 1-7, 6.35, 38 walks in 56.2 innings, and 54 strikeouts. But again, Moylan was learning how to pitch, so you have to take his stats with a grain of salt.

The Braves called Moylan back up to Atlanta when the rosters expanded in September, and it was obvious he had made improvements. He allowed only two runs in six games, four hits in 7.1 innings, with no walks, and six strikeouts. His improved control was impressive, especially to Bobby Cox, who remarked on Moylan's improvement.

Here's an interview I did with Moylan late in the season:

SHANKS: The dream season just keeps on going doesn't it? That's the best way to describe all this?
MOYLAN: That's exactly the way to describe it. I had a pretty good year in Richmond. First year of full season baseball. I'd have three outings in a row that would look fantastic and then give up five in an inning. I think the walks are what killed me the most there and that was because I was working on getting a consistent arm angle and trying to get consistent with my other pitches other than the fastball. So to get the call to come back up here in September was unexpected but fantastic. I was definitely not sure if I'd get back up here.

SHANKS: And it was natural to not be sure about coming back up since stat-wise...
MOYLAN: A little shaky.

SHANKS: But don't you think that the stats were almost secondary in a way for you this season. You had to come over and prove you could pitch and make it through the season and just learn about being a pitcher. I mean how much more do you know now about pitching than in March?
MOYLAN: Ten times more. First time I came over in rookie ball (with the Twins in the mid-90s) and I was trying to work on mechanics. But this time I was in Triple-A and had to work on my mechanics. But I actually had to learn how to pitch as well. Early on it was tough. It wasn't like pitching for the club in Australia where I just threw it wherever I wanted to. I had to learn that spotting my fastball is a key and throwing my other pitches consistently was a key. I was throwing a frisbee slider at the start of the year that was okay, but as people learned to sit on it, it became an easy pitch for them to hit. So I had to learn something else.

SHANKS: So what did you find and learn?
MOYLAN: I just lifted my arm angle slightly to more three-quarter action and now I can throw my slider toward the outside of the plate. With my frisbee slider I started at the hip and it would cross right over the middle of the plate.

SHANKS: Is that arm angle more consistent with your fastball too so there's not as much variation between pitches?
MOYLAN: That's right. It's exactly the same for my fastball and exactly the same for my changeup.

SHANKS: And you had to learn that by just going out there and pitching.
MOYLAN: Exactly. It wasn't until I saw the results of my other pitches that I knew I had to do something else.

SHANKS: And after you came back up here you've been very effective, so do you feel comfortable now?
MOYLAN: I feel a lot more comfortable now. I feel like I know I can get people out and that I have good stuff. I know I can throw it where I want to. It helps.

SHANKS: And you've got to be comfortable just being here and knowing that your mechanics are fixed.
MOYLAN: Not only that, but the last couple of times I threw out there (for Richmond) I didn't know if I was going to be going home the next day or whether I was coming here. So it's just a relief knowing where I'm going to be for a while.

SHANKS: And since you are doing well, you must feel that you'll get a fair look next spring.
MOYLAN: That's what I'm hoping for.

SHANKS: Are you tired? You've never pitched this much in your life.
MOYLAN: I'd love to be in the playoffs, but I'm going to enjoy being home. If the season was a month longer then I'd enjoy being here too, but I'm going to enjoy being home with the family and friend and just relaxing for a little while. I'll take about two or three weeks off and get going again.

***

So at the least Moylan and Paronto have given the Braves reason to give them a tryout in spring training. After this year's bullpen debacle, the Braves needed as many options as possible. And both right-handers showed glimpses that they can be effective.

The Braves will bring in some new pitchers this winter, but it'll be good to have two interesting arms in Paronto and Moylan in camp to be given a full shot at a bullpen role. Maybe the Braves can catch lightning in a bottle with both of them.



Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can also be heard regularly on the Braves Radio Network. Email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.


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