Register

Leo Mazzone: ‘Braves Are In Trouble With Their Starting Rotation’

View Comments
(Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

(Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Last year, the Atlanta Braves went 96-66 and won the NL East. This year, however, they enter the season with a decidedly different feel.

Brian McCann? Signed with the Yankees. Kris Medlen? Hurt. Brandon Beachy? Hurt. Mike Minor? Hurt. Dan Uggla? Awful last year. B.J. Upton? Awful last year.

So, what exactly are the expectations for this team?

“A month ago, you were looking at a (good) young pitching staff; they put together a core of four starters,” former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone said on The Morning Show. “Your top three starters – Medlen, Beachy and Minor – are gone. Now, (Julio)Teheran is an outstanding starter, an outstanding young pitcher, (but) now he moves to the front of the pack. And then after that, man, you don’t really know.

“I think the Braves are in trouble with their starting rotation. A guy like Alex Wood is going to have to step up. (Ervin) Santana is now an ace, a supposed-ace. So what you’re looking at here is trying to survive the first month of the season.

“You know that saying (that) you can never have enough pitching? Guess what? It’s true.”

Offensively, the Braves will need better years from Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton. Last season, Uggla hit .179 with 22 home runs, 55 RBIs, 10 doubles and 60 runs – almost career-lows across the board. Upton, meanwhile, hit .184 with nine home runs, 26 RBIs, 30 runs and 12 steals – again, almost career-lows across the board.

Mazzone thinks the issue for both players is more mental than physical.

“I think in both scenarios – in being around the game and having players that get these big contracts – some of them find it very difficult to live up to them and they’re embarrassed about it,” Mazzone said. “I think Uggla and Upton have both gone through that.

“(There’s) no pressure in Miami, (and there’s) not a whole lot of pressure in Tampa, but Tampa’s a winning-type organization too. But now these guys were all of a sudden the highest-paid players in Braves history. They’re making more than anybody. So now expectations become extremely high.

“Now, there are players who then put so much pressure on themselves to live up to those expectations that you forget how to enjoy the game. I think that’s what’s happened. I’ve gone through it with some guys where I had to be a psychologist down there in the bullpen with them.

“You can talk about mechanics all you want. That’s a bunch of baloney. (It’s about) getting your head right.”

The Braves need Uggla and Upton to be leaders, especially without McCann and Tim Hudson, who signed with San Francisco.

For Mazzone, though, there’s no doubt who the two best players in the lineup are. That would be first baseman Freddie Freeman and shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

“Those two guys are as good as it gets,” Mazzone said.

Last year, the Atlanta Braves went 96-66 and won the NL East. This year, however, they enter the season with a decidedly different feel.

Brian McCann? Signed with the Yankees. Kris Medlen? Hurt. Brandon Beachy? Hurt. Mike Minor? Hurt. Dan Uggla? Awful last year. B.J. Upton? Awful last year.

So, what exactly are the expectations for this team?

“A month ago, you were looking at a (good) young pitching staff; they put together a core of four starters,” former Braves pitching coach Leo Mazzone said on The Morning Show. “Your top three starters – Medlen, Beachy and Minor – are gone. Now, (Julio) Teheran is an outstanding starter, an outstanding young pitcher, (but) now he moves to the front of the pack. And then after that, man, you don’t really know.

“I think the Braves are in trouble with their starting rotation. A guy like Alex Wood is going to have to step up. (Ervin) Santana is now an ace, a supposed-ace. So what you’re looking at here is trying to survive the first month of the season.

“You know that saying (that) you can never have enough pitching? Guess what? It’s true.”

Offensively, the Braves will need better years from Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton. Last season, Uggla hit .179 with 22 home runs, 55 RBIs, 10 doubles and 60 runs – almost career-lows across the board. Upton, meanwhile, hit .184 with nine home runs, 26 RBIs, 30 runs and 12 steals – again, almost career-lows across the board.

Mazzone thinks the issue for both players is more mental than physical.

“I think in both scenarios – in being around the game and having players that get these big contracts – some of them find it very difficult to live up to them and they’re embarrassed about it,” Mazzone said. “I think Uggla and Upton have both gone through that.

“(There’s) no pressure in Miami, (and there’s) not a whole lot of pressure in Tampa, but Tampa’s a winning-type organization too. But now these guys were all of a sudden the highest-paid players in Braves history. They’re making more than anybody. So now expectations become extremely high.

“Now, there are players who then put so much pressure on themselves to live up to those expectations that you forget how to enjoy the game. I think that’s what’s happened. I’ve gone through it with some guys where I had to be a psychologist down there in the bullpen with them.

“You can talk about mechanics all you want. That’s a bunch of baloney. (It’s about) getting your head right.”

The Braves need Uggla and Upton to be leaders, especially without McCann and Tim Hudson, who signed with San Francisco.

For Mazzone, though, there’s no doubt who the two best players in the lineup are. That would be first baseman Freddie Freeman and shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

“Those two guys are as good as it gets,” Mazzone said.

There’s also Craig Kimbrel, who last year saved 50 games.

“I think (he’s) the greatest closer in the game,” Mazzone said. “But they got problems in that starting rotation. They’re going to survive that first month or so (and) see where they’re at.”

Mazzone thinks the NL East is a two-team race between Washington and Atlanta, with the Nationals having the edge for the divisional crown.

There’s also Craig Kimbrel, who last year saved 50 games.

“I think (he’s) the greatest closer in the game,” Mazzone said. “But they got problems in that starting rotation. They’re going to survive that first month or so (and) see where they’re at.”

Mazzone thinks the NL East is a two-team race between Washington and Atlanta, with the Nationals having the edge for the divisional crown.

View Comments
blog comments powered by Disqus
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.