6/15/2013 12:09 A.M. ET
Varvaro gets a taste of one-out relief work
By Eric Single / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- Anthony Varvaro was getting used to having an entire inning to himself, and his relief appearance in the 10th inning with the score tied last Friday against the Dodgers was supposed to be no different. Varvaro had lasted at least a full inning in nine of his prior 10 appearances, allowing just two earned runs over that span.
Varvaro's inning did not go as planned: He gave up two singles and threw a wild pitch with runners on the corners that allowed the game-winning run to come across in the Braves' 2-1 loss. Since then, the Braves righty has made a pair of entrances in the middle of an inning and closed out the frame without incident, the most recent member of the Atlanta bullpen to undergo a minor role change and adjust on the fly.
"I don't really think that there are [established bullpen roles] besides obviously Craig [Kimbrel] and you know we're going to [Jordan] Walden late right before him," Varvaro said. "I think [Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez] has been playing matchup for the most part, just kind of what he feels at that moment may be best."
The day after he was tagged with his first loss of the season, Varvaro came on for Kris Medlen with two outs in the seventh and induced an inning-ending groundout. On Tuesday in San Diego, Varvaro struck out Kyle Blanks with runners on second and third to help the Braves escape the eighth trailing by just one run. Those one-out assignments provide different challenges than the task of managing an entire inning and with that comes a slight change in approach, according to Varvaro.
"Normally if you're coming in for a batter, there's someone in scoring position, so you're looking for a punchout," he said. "You're not necessarily coming in and saying 'OK, I'm kind of just trying to get ahead and pitch to contact a little bit.'"
As the Braves move farther away from last Friday's extra-innings loss and the rest of their rocky West Coast road trip, Varvaro is staying consistent with his mentality in the hope that each successive appearance out of the bullpen, no matter the length, will help build his reputation as one of the club's more flexible bullpen pieces.
"When I'm coming in earlier in the game and it's a clean inning and it looks like I may have an inning or two, I'm still trying to be pretty aggressive," Varvaro said. "If I give up a hit, it's not the end of the world, whereas it may be on that one batter."
Tender elbow pushes back Beachy's return
ATLANTA -- Brandon Beachy's much-anticipated return from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery will have to wait past Tuesday. The Braves scratched the right-hander from his season debut in next week's doubleheader against the Mets after Beachy felt more tenderness than usual in the elbow after a three-inning start for Triple-A Gwinnett at Rochester on Thursday.
"He's a little more tender than he has been in the past post-start, and so we're going to scratch him from the start on Tuesday and let him kind of heal up a little bit," Braves general manager Frank Wren said Friday night. "This is really the first setback he's had throughout this process, so we're going to give him a little more time."
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said before Friday's game that Beachy remained on schedule to rejoin the Braves on Tuesday against the Mets. But after Beachy met with team doctors, the Braves determined his additional tenderness was a cause for minor concern and announced the decision during Friday's game.
"Beachy's such a perfectionist," Gonzalez said after Friday's game. "He thinks that this is a setback, and it really isn't. He hasn't had a setback all year, and this is something that you want to take a little precaution with. Knowing Beach and knowing the way he is and the hard work he's given to this, he had that target date. It was just a target date. It was never written in pen, it was written in pencil. So what? You don't hit that. Take a breather, do whatever we got to do, and move on."
Beachy lasted three innings Thursday night in Rochester, surrendering three hits, four walks and two earned runs. He also registered four strikeouts and threw just 69 pitches, 24 fewer than he threw in a five-inning start for Double-A Mississippi five days before.
"His command was off, especially last night," Wren said. "I think he had trouble getting the ball where he wanted it. I think that's all indicative of being not quite right."
In recent weeks, Beachy's impending return to the fold has commanded more attention than the sterling performance of the rest of the Braves rotation, which had allowed two earned runs or fewer in nine consecutive games until Monday night's 7-6 loss in San Diego. There was little chance Beachy would be the odd man out when the Braves were forced to make a tough decision about their pitching staff in the coming weeks. That decision has temporarily been pushed farther into the future.
"There's no rush," Wren said. "We had hoped he could make this start in the doubleheader, but it wasn't a make-or-break start, obviously. The most important thing is to get him healthy long term, and we feel like pushing it back a little bit, giving it more time is the prudent thing to do."
Wren said the Braves will make a decision on who starts the doubleheader after Sunday's game against the Giants. Paul Maholm, whose last start came Wednesday in San Diego, will likely handle one of the two starts.
"He's disappointed," Wren said of Beachy. "I think he was excited to get back out there and perform, so I think he's disappointed in that regard, but he's also a smart guy. He knows that's the best thing."
After beginning his live rehab with two innings in an extended spring training game May 14, Beachy made five official rehab starts among the Braves' Minor League affiliates. Before stumbling in Thursday's start, Beachy had turned in the strongest and most complete outing of his rehab in his penultimate Minor League appearance, striking out eight and throwing 94 pitches over five innings for Gwinnett last Saturday.
"We're going to continue to watch it," Wren said. "He was a little tender after the last start, and this time he was a little more tender, so I think the smart thing to do is just to slow it down and give him time. He's had really an unremarkable rehab until this point, so I think everything's going to be fine. We just have to slow down."
Eric Single is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.