04/30/07 7:20 PM ET
Wickman lands on disabled list
Closer's performance has suffered due to sore upper back
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
This was confirmed on Monday afternoon, when the Braves placed him on the 15-day disabled list with tendinitis in the upper right portion of his back. He has felt some discomfort for the last couple of weeks. But the ailment definitely affected him in his past three appearances, two of which resulted in blown save opportunities.
"I just wasn't able to finish my pitches and I believe the last couple of games, I was hurting the team more than I was helping it," said Wickman, who issued six walks and allowed five earned runs while totaling just 1 2/3 innings in his past three appearances.
Before these three appearances, Wickman had converted each of his six save opportunities and worked 9 2/3 scoreless innings. Last year with the Braves, he posted a 1.04 ERA and issued just two walks in 26 innings. Along the way, he converted 18 of 19 save opportunities.
"You pitch enough, you're going to have aches and pains," said the 38-year-old Wickman, who has made 790 career appearances. "It's just a little tendinitis up there and hopefully we can work it out in 15 days."
While Wickman is out, Braves manager Bobby Cox says that he'll use both Rafael Soriano and Mike Gonzalez in the closer's role. Gonzalez has allowed two hits in the three innings he's worked since learning that there wasn't any structural damage in his left elbow.
As for Soriano, he has definitely looked like the best candidate to fill the closer's role. He hasn't allowed a run in 11 of the 13 appearances he's made this year, and the two games in which he allowed runs were ones in which he entered with the Braves holding a lead of at least five runs.
"Gonzalez has been throwing great and Soriano has been lights out," Cox said.
Wickman's first blown save came Wednesday, when he entered the ninth inning against the Marlins with a three-run lead and the bases loaded. Two nights later, he was surprised to be brought into a game in which the Braves held a five-run lead against the Rockies.
After surrendering two hits and issuing two walks, he asked to be removed from the Colorado contest. Fortunately, with the potential tying run at first base, Peter Moylan retired the next batter and prevented what could have possibly been three straight blown saves for Wickman, who wasted a two-run lead on Sunday.
Wickman's appearance on Sunday was his fifth in a span of eight days. But he says the workload had nothing to do with the discomfort that he's feeling in his back.
"Some days you go out there and it wasn't as bad and some days you go out there and it was bad," said Wickman, who admits his stubbornness prevented him from telling the Braves about his back until Sunday.
Chad Paronto has been activated from the disabled list and will take Wickman's spot in the bullpen. Paronto had missed the past two weeks with a strained right adductor muscle. He hasn't had any discomfort in the upper leg region over the past week.
"He's ready," Cox said. "He's been firing off the mound."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.