06/13/12 7:45 PM ET
Fredi laments Yanks' pivotal six-run eighth
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
Gearrin's struggles against left-handed batters were extended, as Swisher greeted him with what proved to be a game-winning two-run home run. One night earlier in his season debut, the sidearmer allowed hits to two of the four left-handed batters he faced.
There is no guarantee things would have turned out differently had Martinez been brought in to put the switch-hitting Swisher on the left side of the plate. But Martinez had limited left-handed hitters to a .220 batting average at the big league level this year.
Gonzalez said that the decision to pull starting pitcher Mike Minor after he allowed a one-out single to Derek Jeter in the eighth inning was based on something pitching coach Roger McDowell spotted during Russell Martin's at-bat to open the inning. Gonzalez did not elaborate on what McDowell saw.
With Eric O'Flaherty's left elbow ailing, Gonzalez turned to Jonny Venters, who allowed a single and issued a walk before allowing Alex Rodriguez's game-tying grand slam.
There was no need for the Braves to even contemplate bringing closer Craig Kimbrel into the game before the Yankees loaded the bases, and that occurred so quickly, Kimbrel would not have had time to get his arm warmed up before the damage was done. Kimbrel's only two-inning appearance in the closer role occurred last April 21, when he blew a save opportunity against the Dodgers in the ninth inning, then pitched a scoreless 10th.
"It's not about the pitch count and the stressful innings," Gonzalez said when asked about Kimbrel making a multi-inning appearance. "[John Smoltz] would do it all the time. But Smoltzie was a starter, so he knew how to come in, sit down and go back out there. That's the only thing that is the unknown with a young reliever."
O'Flaherty remains out, but likely not for long
ATLANTA -- Eric O'Flaherty felt helpless as he was limited to bystander status while the Yankees tallied six runs in the eighth inning of Tuesday night's 6-4 win over the Braves. But by this weekend, the veteran left-handed reliever believes his left elbow will be healthy enough for him to resume pitching.
O'Flaherty woke up on Monday with what he described as a little bit more than normal soreness. He has experienced some relief while resting over the past couple of days and believes he might be available to come out of Atlanta's bullpen by Saturday.
"We did all of the exams, and it does not look like anything major is going on," O'Flaherty said. "We'll just give it a couple days and see if it calms down."
O'Flaherty plans to play catch at Turner Field during Thursday's off-day. If all goes well, he could throw a bullpen session on Friday, then possibly be ready for the final two games of this weekend's series against the Orioles in Atlanta.
"Our medical people are saying if we can get him through these next couple of days, he'll be fine," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
With O'Flaherty unavailable, the Braves could not afford to keep Cory Gearrin, who also would have been unavailable on Wednesday after coming out of the bullpen on Monday and Tuesday. So the club optioned Gearrin back to Triple-A Gwinnett and recalled right-handed Anthony Varvaro on Wednesday.
Varvaro posted a 2.81 ERA and saw opponents hit .260 against him in 18 appearances for Gwinnett this year. Varvaro learned of his promotion around 3 p.m. ET on Wednesday after traveling throughout the day from Pawtucket, R.I., back to the Atlanta area.
Braves yet to decide how to use Medlen
ATLANTA -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said a decision has not been made about whether to bring Kris Medlen back up to the Braves as a starting pitcher or reliever. But the manager provided a clue when he said it would be difficult to remove either Mike Minor or Randall Delgado from the starting rotation right now.
When Medlen was sent to Triple-A Gwinnett two weeks ago in hopes of stretching out to be a starter, it was believed he would return after three starts to replace either Minor or Delgado in the rotation. But now that Medlen has completed those three starts, the Braves might determine that they need him to return to the relief role he held during the season's first two months.
"We're kicking around the role," Gonzalez said.
Medlen allowed 15 hits and seven earned runs in 13 1/3 innings over three starts with Gwinnett. The versatile hurler is stretched out enough to serve as a starter, but after blowing four-run leads on Sunday and Tuesday, the Braves might determine he provides more value in the bullpen.
Because Medlen went six innings against Pawtucket on Tuesday night, he would not be available to join the Braves' bullpen before Friday. If the club adds him as a reliever, Medlen would likely take the spot of Anthony Varvaro, who was promoted on Wednesday to provide bullpen depth.
Making what could have been his final start due to recent struggles, Minor seemed to solidify his spot in the rotation on Tuesday by limiting the Yankees to one run in 7 1/3 innings. It might have been the finest performance in the career of the 24-year-old left-hander, who had posted an 8.84 ERA in his previous seven starts.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.