Posted on July 14, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
If the Atlanta Braves are going to surprise the baseball world and reach the postseason in 2018, they’ll need to stay healthy. Unfortunately, the right shoulder of closer Arodys Vizcaino doesn’t seem to be cooperating. The Braves added Vizcaino to the 10-day DL on Saturday with inflammation in his shoulder. It’s his second trip to the DL for shoulder problems in less than a month, which is no doubt a concern for the Braves.
Vizcaino initially went to the DL on June 24 because of shoulder inflammation. He missed less than two weeks of action before being activated. Since then, Vizcaino has thrown scoreless innings in all three of his appearances. However, each of those outings has come with two days of rest in between as the shoulder issue has not subsided completely.
Prior to Saturday’s game, Braves manager Brian Snitker decided that Vizcaino wouldn’t be available. With the all-star break approaching, the Braves decided to put him back on the DL. He last pitched on Wednesday, so Vizcaino would be eligible to come off the DL next weekend. But it’s unclear if the Braves will want to rush him back from his continued shoulder issues.
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“I was watching Viz throw (Saturday afternoon) and he didn’t look and he didn’t feel good (Friday night) warming up,” Snitker said after Saturday’s loss to the Diamondbacks. “That’s why we wanted to see how it was today, and it wasn’t good. It’s the same thing we put him on the DL before with. We’ve got to get it calmed down.”
When he hasn’t been available to pitch this year, Vizcaino has been an invaluable part of the Atlanta bullpen. He has 15 saves in 17 opportunities, posting a 1.65 ERA. Several of Atlanta’s top relief pitchers have had their ups and downs this year, but Vizcaino has been a steady presence at the back end of the bullpen.
At this point, the Braves believe Vizcaino’s shoulder issues aren’t serious. However, it’s not a good sign for him to have two stints on the DL in less than a month. Vizcaino also has a history of elbow trouble, including Tommy John surgery that cost him the entire 2012 season. He also missed the entire 2013 surgery after a separate elbow surgery. With that in mind, the Braves may be patient with Vizcaino this time around.
In his absence, A.J. Minter is expected to take over closer duties for the Braves. The 24-year old lefty is 4 for 4 in save situations this season with a 3.38 ERA. Dan Winkler could also get some opportunities to pitch in save situations. Winkler has a 2.84 ERA this season but has no experience as a closer.
Considering the uncertainty surrounding Vizcaino, the Braves may feel pressure to add an experienced closer before the trade deadline. Atlanta has recently fallen behind the Phillies in the NL East. The team’s bullpen will be key to the Braves getting back on top in the division. Meanwhile, the Braves can only hope that Vizcaino is able to come back healthy sooner rather than later.