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Every spring there is always a lot of drama about who will make the opening day rosters around baseball. However, we have seen the last few weeks while that might be a bit overrated. Think back to February, before the Braves got to Florida. The belief was the bullpen’s main cast of characters would be Arodys Vizcaino, A.J. Minter, Darren O’Day, Chad Sobotka, Jonny Venters and Jesse Biddle. Fast forward to now, late-May. Vizcaino and Biddle were traded to Seattle on Monday. Minter is in Triple-A after posting a 9.82 ERA in Atlanta. O’Day and Sobotka have been hurt and there is no timetable on their return, while Venters was released last week. So, three of those six significant relievers are now gone, and while there is hope Minter, O’Day and Sobotka will contribute at some point, there is no guarantee. And how about this. Of the 13 pitchers on the opening day roster, only five remain on the active roster now. Four are in the minor leagues, two were traded, one was released, and one is on the injured list. That’s crazy turnover, but maybe it’s a good thing to have the Atlanta bullpen revamped in May, since it is the main reason the team is not in first place. And something may tell you the changes are not over.
Luke Jackson has been a savior, and if not him stepping up to be the closer, who know where the Braves would be right now. But how long can they count on Jackson to do this? We saw Tuesday night, when he blew his fourth save in 10 chances, that he’s still shaky. Do we expect Jackson to still be saving games in August and down the stretch? Yes, Craig Kimbrel is two weeks away for teams to sign him without losing a draft pick. Maybe it will happen with the Braves, but who knows. Predicting Kimbrel’s destination is a dangerous game. — Josh Tomlin, Jerry Blevins and newly acquired Anthony Swarzak will get opportunities, and Jacob Webb and Dan Winkler have been very effective. These middle relievers will be very important, especially with starting pitchers not going longer in games. The key for the pen may be the former starting pitchers in there now. Sean Newcomb has yet to allow a run or a walk in his first seven appearances out of the bullpen and got his first save Monday night. Maybe Newcomb has found a home in the pen. He certainly looks more aggressive on the mound in this role, which seemed to be a weakness for him as a starter. And Touki Toussaint looks very comfortable as a reliever. He’s got a 1.26 ERA in 14.1 relief innings, with 18 strikeouts and only two earned runs allowed. We knew some of the young starting pitchers would have no choice but to move to the pen, and so far, Toussaint fits the bill. If I had my way, Webb and Newcomb would get save opportunities, but there is no doubt the Braves need more help. They have changed it a bit and it seems better, but getting Kimbrel and then trading for another setup man or two might make this team one of the most dangerous in the National League.