Notes: Life after Wickman

Notes: Life after Wickman

ST. LOUIS -- With Bob Wickman out of the picture, Braves manager Bobby Cox isn't sure who he's going to utilize as his closer. But he believes he has a couple of good options.

After announcing Wickman had been designated for assignment on Friday, Cox said that he plans to use a closer-by-committee approach for the next couple of weeks in hopes that somebody proves that they deserve to own the role on a regular basis.

Unfortunately Octavio Dotel, who has the most experience as a closer among the cast of candidates, might not fit into that mix any time soon. While throwing a bullpen session on Friday afternoon, the veteran right-handed reliever still felt some discomfort in his right shoulder, which has kept him sidelined since Aug. 7.

While Peter Moylan might prove to be the man for the closer's role, Rafael Soriano seemingly is the early favorite. While he's not pitching like he did when he limited opponents to a 2.20 ERA and a .115 batting average in his first 29 appearances of the season, the right-handed reliever has at least shown some recent promise.

"He's pitched real good," Cox said. "He has for the most part. He had that one streak with long balls where he was throwing the ball as hard as ever, just not locating."

During that 25-game streak, which began on June 15 and extended through Aug. 11, Soriano surrendered nine homers, posted a 6.00 ERA, saw opponents hit .289 and blew each of his three save opportunities.

With that streak not being in the so-far-distant past, it's seemingly too early for Cox to hand the closer's role to Soriano, whose two-inning appearance in Thursday's loss to the Reds marked the fourth straight outing in which he didn't allow a run.

"The last three outings he's had, he's been pitching good," Andruw Jones said. "He's throwing that fastball into lefties, who were hitting homers off him. I think he's starting to look like what we were looking for him to do."

Moylan's credentials were somewhat tainted when he suffered a loss on Tuesday, and then he blew a save opportunity by allowing his first homer in 31 2/3 innings on Thursday. But the side-winding Australian has arguably been the Braves' most consistent reliever this season.

In the 25 appearances he made before Tuesday, Moylan posted a 0.99 ERA and limited opponents to a .191 batting average.

Same ol' suitcase: A few hours before the start of Friday night's rain-delayed series opener against the Cardinals, Joey Devine tugged his familiar suitcase into the Braves' clubhouse. This marks the fifth time he's been granted a Major League promotion this year, and he's hoping he won't be making any return trips to the Minors any time soon.

"I feel like I'm back to being the old Joey Devine," said the right-handed reliever, who registered three strikeouts in a perfect ninth inning for Triple-A Richmond on Thursday night.

Since being the Braves' first selection in the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, Devine has encountered multiple struggles. But in 46 Minor League appearances this season, he's posted a 2.04 ERA and limited opponents to a .202 batting average.

Devine's promotion was just one of the moves the Braves made on Friday while restructuring their bullpen. They also recalled hard-throwing right-hander Jose Ascanio from Double-A Mississippi. In 44 appearances this year, Ascanio has posted a .254 ERA and limited opponents to a .234 batting average.

Both Ascanio and Devine will be attempting to match the recent success of Manny Acosta, who has definitely impressed Cox since making his big league debut on Aug. 12. In the five appearances he's made with Atlanta, the lanky Acosta has worked 6 2/3 scoreless innings and surrendered just three hits.

While working two scoreless innings against the Reds on Wednesday, Acosta displayed an impressive array of sliders. Because the downward movement was so sharp from his vantage point in right field, Jeff Francoeur thought they were split-finger fastballs.

"You're talking about guys who can run it up there in the mid-90s,"Chipper Jones said of this trio of young relievers. "They've proven themselves down in the Minors. Maybe they can provide a spark. If they can't, they'll get some valuable experience going into next year. But hopefully, they will be able to help us get over the hump this year."

Coming or going? When the Braves activated Edgar Renteria from the disabled list on Wednesday, Martin Prado began packing his bags. When Renteria was hurt during his first at-bat that evening, Prado began unpacking, knowing he would be placed back on the 25-man roster on Thursday.

Because they utilized six relievers in Thursday's 12-inning loss, the Braves opted to have an extra pitcher available on Friday. Consequently, Prado was forced to pack his bags again. When the rosters expand in September, he'll likely enjoy an elongated stay in the Majors.

Coming up: The Braves will continue their three-game series against the Cardinals on Saturday night at 7:10 ET. They'll send Tim Hudson (15-5, 3.07 ERA) to the mound to oppose Joel Pineiro (4-2, 4.34).

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