ATLANTA -- When the Braves placed Jordan Walden on the disabled list and learned Eric O'Flaherty would need to undergo season-ending elbow surgery within a 24-hour span in mid-May, Luis Avilan said he was ready to accept the challenge of taking on a greater role in Atlanta's bullpen.
Nearly two months later, Avilan has established himself as a dependable setup man for closer Craig Kimbrel. In fact, during his first full calendar year at the big league level, the hard-throwing left-hander has developed into one of the game's top relievers.
Avilan made his Major League debut on July 14 last year and then proceeded to allow a run in three of his first four appearances. In the 69 appearances he has made dating back to July 30, he has compiled a 1.36 ERA and limited opponents to a .160 batting average.
Kimbrel and American League All-Star Jesse Crain are the only Major League relievers who have posted a lower ERA while making at least 50 appearances during this span. Paco Rodriguez and Glen Perkins are the only qualified relievers to produce a better opponent's batting average.
"I remember my first couple outings in the big leagues," Avilan said. "I was so shy and scared about what I was supposed to do. Right now, I feel comfortable about what I'm doing and what I have to do."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.