HOUSTON -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was criticized for using his top three relievers too frequently last year. Four games into this season, he found himself wishing he was drawing similar criticism.
While setup men Jonny Venters and Eric O'Flaherty both made an appearance as the Braves lost their first four games, closer Craig Kimbrel had remained idle. Thus, Gonzalez went into Tuesday night's game knowing that he was going to pitch Kimbrel regardless of whether a save situation developed.
Fortunately for Kimbrel, the save situation materialized and he was able to preserve Tuesday's 6-4 win over the Astros. After allowing the first two batters of the ninth inning to reach safely, he got Chris Johnson to ground into a double play. The hard-throwing closer then induced a Chris Snyder strikeout to end the game and notch his first save of the season.
Courtesy of Thursday's scheduled off-day, Gonzalez knew he could use Kimbrel on Tuesday without the possibility that it would set him up to pitch on three consecutive days.
"If he pitches tonight and [Wednesday], he's fine," Gonzalez said on Tuesday. "That's only two in a row. If he would have pitched [Monday] and then today and [Wednesday], then you've got three in a row. That's not unheard of, but not in April."
Venters led the Majors with 85 appearances last year, and Kimbrel notched the second-highest total with 79 appearances. O'Flaherty ranked third on the team with 78.