Notes: Devine makes positive step
Reliever shows promise by escaping jam against Brewers
ATLANTA -- When the Braves took Joey Devine with their first selection in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, some wondered if he'd be Atlanta's closer by the end of that same year.
Unfortunately, by the time that season concluded, there was only reason to wonder if Devine's introduction to Major League Baseball had left mental scars that would never heal.
Since becoming the only pitcher to surrender grand slams in his first two big league appearances and ending the 2005 season with the pitch that he threw Houston's Chris Burke in the 18th inning of Game 4 of the National League Division Series, Devine has verbally expressed confidence.
But it wasn't until he escaped a bases-loaded jam in the 11th inning of Saturday's win over the Brewers that Devine truly showed the Braves and himself that he can be an asset in those pressure situations that any reliever is going to encounter.
"It was fun getting out of that situation," said Devine, whose escape act earned him his first career Major League victory. "I had a blast doing it."
When Devine fell behind with a 3-0 count to Damian Miller, it looked like he might add another chapter to his frustrating career. But the right-handed reliever, who celebrated his 24th birthday on Wednesday, battled back and got Miller to end the inning with a lazy infield pop fly.
"It's a different game and the ability to throw quality strikes in certain situations is of the utmost importance," Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell said. "It's a learning process for any young pitcher. The more you learn and the more positive steps that you have will determine how quickly you have success."
Based simply on his stuff, Devine certainly had what it took to make the Major League roster out of Spring Training. But knowing what he'd endured when he was fast-tracked to Atlanta in 2005 and that injuries had basically ruined his 2006 season, the Braves wanted him to spend most of this season finding success at the Minor League level.
While he made a number of brief trips to Atlanta, Devine took advantage of this opportunity to enhance his confidence in the Minors. In 50 combined appearances with Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Richmond, he posted a 1.89 ERA, limited opponents to a .202 batting average and registered 20 saves.
"It was important for him to have some success and some continued success," McDowell said. "Every positive step is a building block for the next step. The next step is to have another good outing."
Pleasantly surprised: When Octavio Dotel took the mound in the 10th inning of Saturday's game with the bases loaded and two outs, he didn't know what to expect. It was his first appearance since Aug. 7, and the veteran right-hander wasn't sure what to expect from his previously strained right shoulder.
But while registering an inning-ending strikeout of Geoff Jenkins, Dotel was pleased to produce fastballs that were clocked at 93 and 94 mph.
"I was surprised with the velocity that I had," said Dotel, who'd made just five previous appearances for the Braves since being acquired from Kansas City at the trade deadline.
With his recent health concerns and a $5.5 million option for next year, there's a good chance Dotel won't return to Atlanta next year. Thus, he feels it's necessary for him to make a positive impression during the final week in order to show other teams that he's healthy.
Wanting to return: Before hitting his game-tying homer with two outs in Saturday's 10th inning, Scott Thorman had become a forgotten member of the Braves' roster. His early-season disappointments eventually led Atlanta to acquire Mark Teixeira at the trade deadline.
Thorman hasn't started at first base since July 26 and with Teixeira returning to Atlanta, he would find himself in the same position next year. But the 25-year-old Canadian first baseman says he wants to remain with the Braves.
"All I can say is that I want to be here," said Thorman, who has hit just .202 since the beginning of May.
Thorman, whose homer on Saturday was his first since July 29, will play with Brandon Jones in the Mexican Winter League this year. Having compiled just 49 plate appearances since the All-Star break, he has to make up for lost time.
Fan appreciation: A Sunday afternoon crowd of 44,088 swelled the 2007 season attendance to 2,745,207 as the Braves closed out their home schedule. It was the club's highest attendance since 2001 when it drew 2,823,494. This season also marked the third consecutive year that attendance figures have climbed at Turner Field, with 2007 reflecting a seven percent increase over 2006, when the Braves drew 2,550,524.
Coming up: After a day off Monday, the Braves will begin a three-game series against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET. They'll send Chuck James (11-10, 4.11) to the mound to oppose Jamie Moyer (13-11, 5.01).
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.