8/14/2014 12:33 P.M. ET
Lefty Avilan allows run during first game back
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
ATLANTA -- If Braves left-handed reliever Luis Avilan is going to remain at the Major League level, he will need to be more effective than he was on Thursday afternoon, when he allowed the Dodgers to complete a 6-4 win with the comfort of the ninth-inning insurance run he surrendered.
Though he had not produced impressive statistics since being sent to Triple-A Gwinnett on July 19, Avilan was recalled on Thursday to fill the roster spot that was vacated when right-handed reliever Juan Jaime was sent to Gwinnett late Wednesday night. Less than 16 hours later, he found himself thrown right back into the fire as he was given a chance to prove he is capable of serving as the left-handed specialist the Braves have long been seeking.
Asked before the game if he is capable of handling that role, Avilan said, "We'll see."
The Braves seem to share that opinion. Three of the first four batters the Dodgers sent to the plate in Thursday's ninth inning were left-handed. Avilan retired Carl Crawford to open the frame and then surrendered a bunt single to Dee Gordon. The lefty reliever compounded his problems by hitting the right-handed Yasiel Puig before allowing Adrian Gonzalez to crush a double to deep center field.
"We'll keep evaluating," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "The bunt base hit by Dee Gordon, that's a tough one to evaluate because a lefty-lefty matchup on a bunt really is not fair. He just left a ball up over the plate with Gonzalez. He did a nice job with Crawford. We sent him down to get fixed and throw some breaking balls. We saw that with Crawford. He gave Crawford an uncomfortable at-bat."
Avilan produced a 5.40 ERA and allowed opponents to produce a .444 on-base percentage in the nine appearances he made for Gwinnett. He allowed left-handed hitters to go 4-for-13 with three strikeouts and three walks.
"I gave up a few walks my first few outings because I was trying to throw more curveballs and more changeups," Avilan said. "That gave me more balls in those counts. I've been feeling so much better with my pitches now. … My last few outings, I've been throwing the fastball really good. The location was good and the curveball was real good."
Avilan produced a 1.52 ERA in a career-high 75 appearances last year. But as April progressed, he lost confidence in his curveball and primarily became a one-pitch pitcher who relied on an inconsistent sinker. He had a 4.85 ERA in the 47 appearances he made before being sent to Gwinnett.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.