13. How will the bullpen shake out?

Here's a look at the names we may see in the Atlanta bullpen next season.

While the Braves have to figure out who the closer will be in 2010, they will also need to design a new bullpen around the new closer.

But there are several candidates to return. It just remains to see what role will everyone have next season.

Peter Moylan could be the internal candidate to close, but more likely he'll ease back into his role as a main right-handed setup man. Moylan appeared in 87 games last season, and his numbers were simply outstanding. The sidearmer now has a career 2.45 ERA in his 189 major league games.

Eric O'Flaherty was extremely effective as the second lefty in the bullpen. He had his best season as a pro, posting a 3.04 ERA, with good peripherals, in 78 games. Lefty hitters batted only .215 against O'Flaherty, which means he did his job very well.

Kris Medlen was great in his rookie season. While he made four starts, Medlen's real success came as a reliever. In 33 games out of the pen, Medlen had a 3.47 ERA (compared to his 6.38 ERA in his four starts), with 48 hits allowed in 49.1 innings, 19 walks, and 53 strikeouts. After the All-Star Break, when Medlen was exclusively in the bullpen, the right-hander had a 2.80 ERA in 26 games.

So the Braves now know Medlen can, in fact, pitch. Will he compliment Moylan as an 8th inning reliever next season, or could he assume an even larger role?

The Braves have already brought in one new reliever. Scott Proctor was signed to a minor league contract. He'll be returning from Tommy John surgery, so he may not be available until early June. But when Proctor does return, if healthy, he could provide another reliable arm in the pen.

So those are four people that should figure prominently in a seven-man bullpen next season. Who will fill the other spots?

Hard-throwing right-hander Manny Acosta was sixth in appearances last year with 36, even though he didn't make it to the big leagues until late May. Acosta was decent, but nothing special. His mid-90s fastball does make him a dangerous reliever at times, but Acosta can be inconsistent with his command.

The Braves really believe Boone Logan has a chance to be as effective as O'Flaherty as a lefty reliever. Logan pitched in 20 games last season, posting a 5.19 ERA. They wanted him to play winter ball, but Logan refused. So he'll go to spring training with another outside shot at making the roster. If he doesn't, Logan will be on call in Gwinnett.

The Braves took Buddy Carlyle off the 40-man roster, but there is a chance they'll bring him back as a non-roster invitee. Carlyle missed most of last season when he was diagnosed with diabetes. He's still someone the team believes can be an effective middle or long reliever.

Jorge Campillo may also come back as a non-roster invitee. He also missed most of last season. We'll see if the Braves bring him back.

James Parr pitched in eight games early in the season, and later on in the year had some arm issues. He'll get another chance next spring to impress the major league staff.

Other young pitchers on the 40-man roster include Stephen Marek, who really struggled in the minors last season. Todd Redmond pitched well for Team USA in September, and after another decent year in the minors will get a closer look next year.

Luis Valdez got his first taste of the majors with three games in Atlanta this past season. Valdez saved 27 games for Gwinnett and posted a 3.28 ERA. He also struck out 75 batters in 71.1 innings. Valdez remains on the 40-man, so he could get another shot as well.

As a long relief candidate, Jo Jo Reyes remains around. It remains to be seen if the Braves will keep Reyes around as insurance for the rotation, or use him in a deal this winter.

It's very possible the Braves will search for a few other Scott Proctor-types to compliment the relievers they already have on the roster. And a lot of the plans will depend on who they may bring in at the top of the bullpen as the closer.



Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Braves Show Talk Show. Shanks writes a weekly baseball column for The Macon Telegraph and is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.


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