MILWAUKEE -- As pitching prospect J.R. Graham continues his comeback from a shoulder injury sustained early last season, there are no plans to move him into a Minor League relief role.
"We like him as a starter," said Bruce Manno, the Braves assistant general manager and director of player development. "He has started before for us. He had a shoulder issue last summer and rehabbed during the rest of last season and in the offseason. He came to Spring Training healthy and ready to go. Our feeling is we'd like to have him remain as a starter."
The right-hander, tabbed by MLB.com as the Braves' No. 6 prospect entering this season, was limited to just eight starts last season, going 1-3 with a 4.04 ERA in 35 2/3 innings at Double-A Mississippi. He made his final start on May 13 before being shut down with a right shoulder strain.
"Starting pitching is the hardest thing to develop," Manno said. "When a starting pitcher has some struggles in the Minor Leagues, there's a tendency to say, "You know what? He'd probably be better in the bullpen, where you limit the exposure. There's a tendency to move those types of guys a little quicker. We don't really buy into that philosophy. Again, the hardest thing is to develop is a starter, and we like to leave our pitchers in starting positions if we feel that they have the weapons to do it and the physical ability. They can always later on be moved to the 'pen.
"We like him as a starter. He's got the pitches to start, he's got the velocity, and ... until last year when he had the shoulder issue, the durability factor was fine. We're just anxious to get him going again and see how this all plays out as we go through this season. But he's in the rotation at Mississippi and he's going to be one of our starters there. Our hope is to develop him as a starting pitcher."
Jim Hoehn is a contributor to MLB.com. Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.