12/10/10 3:22 PM EST
Sherrill confident he'll return to form with Braves
Former Orioles closer ticketed for specialty duties with Atlanta
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
"We play the game to win," Sherrill said. "This is a good place to do that. This year, to me, the [National League] East looks wide open. So I don't know why we can't. I think I can play some sort of role in helping. If I can get it turned around, that can only help."
As they evaluated the available left-handed relievers on this year's free-agent market, the Braves targeted Sherrill and quickly agreed to provide him with a one-year, $1.2 million contract that includes the opportunity to gain an additional $200,000 worth of incentives.
Braves general manager Frank Wren was able to officially announce this deal once Sherrill's physical was deemed complete Friday.
With the acquisitions of Sherrill and Scott Linebrink, who was acquired via a trade with the White Sox last week, the Braves have added experience to a bullpen that will be anchored by the young arms of Jonny Venters and Craig Kimbrel.
"We like our bullpen a lot," Wren said. "We've got some veterans and some good young talent. We've got a good mix."
Despite the fact that Sherrill posted a 6.69 ERA in 65 appearances with the Dodgers last year, there were still a number of clubs that showed interest. His attraction to the Braves had something to do with the proximity to his parents' home in Memphis, Tenn.
But when asked about his decision to choose Atlanta, he continued to refer to the opportunity to experience the postseason, like he had with the Dodgers in 2009. The '11 Braves will include a number of the same players who helped this past summer's club earn the NL's Wild Card berth.
"Last year was a mess for me and the [Dodgers]," Sherrill said. "Now I've got a chance here to help get these guys back in the playoffs again."
The Braves' odds of returning to the postseason will be significantly enhanced if Sherrill is able to regain the successful form he had before mechanical issues frustrated him throughout this past season.
Most of Sherrill's struggles this year came courtesy of right-handed hitters, who compiled a .427 batting average and .516 on-base percentage against him. He limited left-handed hitters to a .192 batting average (14-for-73) and .286 on-base percentage.
"I'm awful in [Spring Training], but something usually clicks in the last week of [the spring] or first week of the season," Sherrill said. "This year, it just never did. This year, if I fixed something, something else went wrong and it would take a while to fix it. Everything was never on the same page."
Some have suggested that Sherrill struggled because he arrived at Spring Training overweight. Others have said he simply tinkered with his arm slot too often. Regardless of the opinion, he battled mechanical issues throughout this past summer and consequently never found the comfort that helped him experience previous success.
"[Dodgers coaches] told me around All-Star break that my push foot was moving as I was coming up," Sherrill said. "So the line I thought I had was now skewed. I guess that was it, because it helped a little bit. But numbers against righties were still up. It's something that can be fixed."
With Kimbrel, Venters, Linebrink and Peter Moylan around, Sherrill will likely spend much of his time being utilized as a left-handed specialist. He'll essentially share this role with his former Mariners teammate Eric O'Flaherty.
Before this year, Sherrill had always fared much better against right-handed hitters.
On the way to posting a 1.70 ERA in 72 combined appearances with the Orioles and Dodgers in 2009, Sherrill had limited right-handed hitters to a .244 batting average and .321 on-base percentage. Left-handed hitters batted just .128 and reached base at a .188 clip against him during that impressive season.
One year earlier while recording a career-high 31 saves for the Orioles, Sherrill allowed right-handed hitters a .373 on-base percentage and limited left-handed hitters to a .264 mark.
Before that memorable 2008 season, which included an All-Star selection, Sherrill impressed his Orioles manager, Dave Trembley, enough to earn a shot at being a closer.
Now employed as the Braves' Minor League field coordinator, Trembley influenced Wren's decision to give Sherrill a chance to serve as the final key offseason addition to his pitching staff, and, quite possibly, his roster.
"I think from a team and roster perspective, we're ready to go," Wren said. "We'll probably make some small tweaks, but I wouldn't expect anything real big."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.