Mar 28, 2014; Fort Myers, FL, USA; A major league baseball is seen the in the dugout during the game between the Boston Red Sox and the Minnesota Twins at Hammond Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Braves' J.R. Graham to return to starting in AA.

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J.R. Graham to return to a starting role at AA Mississippi

It was reported yesterday on the Atlanta Braves’ official site that the Braves want prospect J. R. Graham to remain a starter.  Since sitting out most of last year with shoulder issues, Graham seemed to be on the path to relief in the Braves’ system.  It is refreshing to know that the Braves have retracted that idea and will let J.R. continue to develop as a starter.

As all of us know, the starting staff, and the future of the starting staff, has been depleted by injuries to Kris Medlen ad Brandon Beachy.  While the staff is being (or will be) plugged by veterans Ervin Santana, Aaron Harang, and Gavin Floyd, none of these guys are long-term solutions as they are all signed to 1-year deals.  Looking to the future, the Braves look to have 3 starters this year that will be in the rotation, barring injury, in 2015; Julio Teheran, Mike Minor, Alex Wood.  Coming off of 2nd Tommy Johns, both Beachy and Medlen can’t be counted on to be rotation regulars, as normally the 2nd surgery requires longer rehab and has less of a track record of success. Also, it’s not even clear whether the Braves will take the risk in offering either of those guys contracts through arbitration for next year.  My guess would be that they will not, but would be willing to offer a lower 1-year deal to at least Medlen.

This turn of events makes the future of the back end of the Braves staff wide open and the Braves still have the arms to plug those holes.  If Graham can stay healthy and continues to use his entire arsenal effectively, he’ll most definitely be high on the list for a starting gig. Right now, he has 2 pitches that he’s very comfortable with and one that’s on the cusp.   Expect him to hold down a spot in Mississippi for a dozen or so starts and if successful, move to Gwinnett to be “closer to home”.  If the Braves rotation gets desperate before season’s end, Graham’s time to shine might come earlier than expected.

In an offseason that was full of horror for our starting pitchers, J.R. Graham back healthy and starting is great news for the future.

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