Remlinger signs Minor League deal

Remlinger signs Minor League deal

ATLANTA -- Mike Remlinger had hoped he'd get the chance to come back to Atlanta. Now the Braves are simply hoping their former reliever has something left in his once very effective left arm.

The Braves signed Remlinger to a Minor League contract on Monday and offered him a Spring Training invite. They're cautiously optimistic that the veteran left-handed reliever has had enough time to overcome the shoulder problems that have plagued him both of the past two seasons.

"We hope that this is a win-win situation for both sides," Braves general manager John Schuerholz said. "We hope that Mike's career can get back on track and he can regain the level of pitching he enjoyed for so many years before shoulder problems got the better of him."

Remlinger, who pitched in Atlanta from 1999-2002, had shoulder surgery in October 2003. He missed the start of the 2004 season and still hadn't regained all of his strength by the end of last season.

But Remlinger, who will celebrate his 40th birthday in March, hopes that he can return to health. After being designated for assignment by the Red Sox on Aug. 29, he returned home and rested his arm until last week, when he began throwing again with some positive results.

"I feel at lot better than I did at the end of last year," said Remlinger, who posted a 6.58 ERA while with the Cubs and Red Sox last year.

Nobody is expecting Remlinger to be as effective as he was when he posted a 1.99 ERA in 71 appearances for the Braves in 2002. But the veteran hurler believes being reunited with manager Bobby Cox and bullpen coach Bobby Dews will put him in an environment where he has the best chance to succeed.

"I knew all winter that this is where I wanted to be," Remlinger said. "I feel like it's home. It's no so much [home], because of the success I had there, but because of why I had so much success there.

"When you have respect for a man like I do for Bobby Cox, you're going to do whatever you can to please them. I look at Bobby as being like a father. I just have so much respect for him and what he has done for me."

Cox's ability to instill confidence in his pitchers is one of the primary reasons his pitching staffs have been among the league's best during the past two decades.

"It's really a no-lose situation for me," Remlinger said. "I can't think of any group of people I'd rather be around in this situation. If it doesn't work out, then I know they're going to give me their honest opinion and not try to sugarcoat anything."

When Remlinger first expressed interest in returning to Atlanta, the Braves weren't interested. But after having him take a physical last week and hearing him tell them that he's feeling stronger, they were willing to take the small gamble on a man, who if nothing else will bring leadership and class to their always respected clubhouse. Doctors told Schuerholz that MRIs didn't show any significant shoulder damage and that there's a chance that two full years removed from surgery, Remlinger's shoulder could indeed be stronger this year.

"The key is if a person can compete at this level and also has the kind of makeup and professionalism that Mike has, you're going to be better off as a team," Schuerholz said. "But the most important aspect is that they have to help you win games."

Remlinger began the 2005 season with the Cubs and showed some early promise. Opponents hit just .233 off him in April and .167 in May. His struggles began in June and by Aug. 10, he had cleared waivers and been traded to the Red Sox.

While with the Red Sox, Remlinger overexerted himself in attempt to find the velocity his tired shoulder was preventing him from relocating. The results weren't good and after just eight appearances with the Red Sox, he was designated for assignment.

Remlinger plans to begin throwing off a mound later this week and would like to come to Atlanta next week to take get to know Roger McDowell, the Braves' new pitching coach.

If Remlinger proves healthy and effective, he gives Atlanta veteran leadership in their bullpen. While he's a left-hander, the veteran hurler's changeup has always allowed him to have success against right-handed hitters. Thus he could prove to be a valuable setup man for Chris Reitsma or whoever earns the job as closer.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.