Delgado 'covering up,' settling into rotation

Delgado 'covering up,' settling into rotation

ATLANTA -- The cover-up may be worse than the act in some walks of life, but it's working wonders for Atlanta Braves rookie pitcher Randall Delgado.

Delgado's ability to cover up is helping make him a popular figure in the Braves' clubhouse.

Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez saw him do it again in his start during Monday night's 3-1 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

"I think in the second inning he gets a runner at third and one out and pitched himself out of it," said Gonzalez. "We didn't make a play behind him and he gets out of it. Those are nice things to see. When he 'covers it up,' that's what we call it, he covers up your mistakes or whatever behind him and keeps your team in the ballgame."

Delgado kept the Braves in Monday night's game, one in which he did not figure in the decision, pitching 6 2/3 innings, allowing just one run (unearned) on four hits.

The youngster, he turned 22 in February, does something else that endears him to teammates -- he listens to veterans. He especially listened to six-time All-Star catcher Brian McCann, who he credited for Monday night's success.

"I think it was good communication with Brian," he said. "It was important for me to keep the game close. We talk, and he gave me some advice [Monday] for the game. That's how we did it, and it's working."

Delgado's listening quite intently, taking it all in and getting it done at the big league level. He leads all National League rookies with 35 strikeouts (11 more than San Diego's Joe Wieland, who just went on the disabled list), is second in innings pitched (40 1/3, only Houston's Lucas Harrell has more with 45), his 3.79 ERA is fourth among rookies -- the three pitchers above him, Arizona's Wade Miley, Chicago's Rafael Dolis and Pittsburgh's Jared Hughes all are relievers -- and his .240 opposing batting average is fourth, also behind Dolis, Miley and Hughes.

And he's only getting better.

Over his last three starts, he's pitched to a 1.33 ERA (three earned runs in 20 1/3 innings), with his shortest outing 5 2/3 innings on May 8 against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. He's struck out 14, while walking six. Compare that to his four starts in April, when his longest outing was 5 1/3 (twice -- vs. the Mets, a win, and at Arizona, a loss).

"I think I've adapted to the big leagues," said Delgado, who reached the sixth inning once in seven starts last season -- that excursion lasted one batter into the seventh, only because he had a no-hitter and ended when Cody Ross homered. "It's so different than the Minor Leagues.

"I'm practicing my pitches, too," he added. "I've talked with the other guys about this, and that's helping right now."

Gonzalez agrees that experience has bred confidence, and there is a lot to be confident about.

"He's one of those guys, he does everything you want him to do on the mound," Gonzalez said. "He holds runners, you can't run on him. He's real quick to the plate, he fields his position. He keeps getting better offensively. That's just from experience. Playing Double-A, Triple-A baseball, you don't get as many at-bats as you do in the Major Leagues. So it's just fun to watch him grow up."