10. Is Jorge Campillo a legit starter?

The Braves had to turn to Jorge Campillo last season, but what can they expect of him next year?

Who would have ever thought last winter, when the Braves signed Jorge Campillo to a minor league contract, he would finish third on the team with 25 starts. But that was the type of season the Braves had – where injuries decimated the team to the point a career minor leaguer would have to step in and become a vital member of the rotation.

And for the most part Campillo did rather well. He went 8-7 in his 25 starts with a 4.34 ERA, 142 hits allowed in 137 innings pitched, 33 walks, and 90 strikeouts. Not bad for a pitcher who had pitched in eight major league games and had posted a 7.13 ERA.

Campillo came up to the major leagues in mid-April, when Rafael Soriano and then Peter Moylan went down with injuries. He would make his first start against the Mets on May 20th, pitching six shutout innings, allowing only three hits, with no walks and seven strikeouts.

Campillo's season can really be split into two sections. In his first 14 starts, Campillo had a 5-4 record with a 3.19 ERA. But in his last 11 starts, in August and September, Campillo was 3-3 with a 5.94 ERA. Campillo clearly wore down as the season went along.

Can Campillo start in the big leagues? Sure, he can. But it's simply a matter of what you want in a rotation. The Braves can't afford to go with castoffs in the rotation anymore, as evidenced by their search for two veteran starters. But can Campillo get people out as a starter, either as an emergency starter or even a fifth starter? Certainly.

Campillo had good starts against some good teams. But he went seven innings or more only six times out of his 25 starts. The Braves needed someone to step in, and Campillo did that. But he did not give the team the number of innings necessary to convince the Braves he can become a regular member of the rotation.

It's not that Campillo cannot have a role on this team. He can. But the Braves simply have to do better if they are going to compete in the National League East in 2009. That's why they are going after some new pitchers, like Jake Peavy and others. Campillo was okay, but the Braves need better than okay.

Campillo just turned 30 in August. He's under control by the Braves for five more seasons. So he's cheap. He proved he could get people out in the big leagues. And he's a good insurance policy as a starter. That's not a bad pitcher to have on a staff.

There's a chance Campillo could get a shot at the fifth starter's spot next spring, but chances are the Braves will prefer him to be the favorite to be the long reliever in the bullpen. Campillo could join Jeff Bennett to form a pretty decent duo in that role.

We have all found out in the last few years that having five starting pitchers is never enough. Eleven pitchers started games for the Braves in 2008. Ten pitchers started games in 2007, with twelve pitchers toeing the mound to start in 2006. So the team is going to need more than just five starters in 2009, and having Campillo around will be good insurance.

But the Braves know they have to do better, and that's why Campillo will more than likely be in the bullpen next season.

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 be heard on 680 the Fan in Atlanta and 105.5 the Fan in Macon. Email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.

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