While team like the Chicago White Sox have a struggling bullpen that’s giving Ozzie Guillen stress issues, other teams actually have a solid relief crew. You can look at the Yankees who have the unhittable Mariano Rivera and setup man Rafael Soriano, the Indians have the Perezes and Tony Sipp who have yet to allow a run, and the Padres have been pretty tough the past two years. But the team that stands out to me is the Atlanta Braves, who despite losing Billy Wagner, may have the best 8th and 9th inning combination in baseball.
Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters are the 9th and 8th inning pitchers for the Braves, and they’re both second year flame-throwing youngsters from the South. Kimbrel was a 3rd-round pick by the Braves in 2008 out of Wallace State Community College. The Huntsville Alabama native spent time at all levels of the minor leagues and gave up just 40 runs in 151 career minor league innings. He averaged over 14 strikeouts per nine innings in the minors, whiffing 242 batters while closing 51 games. After mowing down batters in Triple-A last year, he was called up to the Braves where he gave up just two runs in 20.2 innings, striking out 40 batters.
This year it’s been more of the same.