Dessens gets another shot at Majors
Braves strengthen pitching rotation with veteran right-hander
ATLANTA -- For Elmer Dessens, it's an audition to prove he can still be serviceable at the Major League level. For the Braves, it's the addition of a veteran pitcher who could lessen the strain felt by their fatigued pitching staff during the season's final month.
When Dessens arrived at Turner Field on Thursday, he wasn't providing any guarantees, and the Braves weren't offering any. But they'd already provided enough by welcoming the 37-year-old right-hander back to the Majors.
When the Pirates released Dessens on March 27, there was reason to believe his Major League career might be complete. But after going 10-2 with a 4.03 ERA in 20 starts with the Mexico City Red Devils of the Mexican League, he found the pitching-needy Braves offering him a guaranteed Major League contract for the remainder of this season.
"He can do a little bit of everything," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He's like [Julian] Tavarez has been the past couple of years. He can be a long [reliever], a short [reliever] or a starter."
Right now, the Braves aren't revealing their specific plans for Dessens, who has gone 48-61 with a 4.50 ERA in 356 Major League appearances. In fact, they haven't put him on their 25-man roster and may not do so until it expands once September arrives.
Having allowed one run in eight innings during Sunday's Mexican League championship game, Dessens was in need of some rest during the early portion of this week. But over the next couple of weeks, he could find himself filling a rotation spot or providing spot starts that would lessen the workload required of Jair Jurrjens and Charlie Morton.
Jurrjens has already thrown 13 more innings than he has during any previous professional season and while posting a 5.56 ERA in his past six starts, the 22-year-old rookie has provided reason to believe he's fatigued.
As for Morton, who was converted back to a starter's role late last year with Double-A Mississippi, he has combined for 142 1/3 innings with Triple-A Richmond and Atlanta this year. Before this season, his professional career-high total of innings was 124 2/3 innings, set in 2005 with Class A Rome. Even while pitching in the Arizona Fall League last year, Morton combined for just 100 2/3 innings.
There's also reason for concern about Jo-Jo Reyes, who has combined for 133 1/3 innings this year -- 7 2/3 innings fewer than his previous professional career high.
"I think that's what you worry about most -- that [the young pitchers] get too much, too soon," Braves general manager Frank Wren said. "But I think the guys have handled it well."
Along with providing an extra arm, Dessens could provide some productive innings. During his final five regular-season starts, he was 2-0 with a 2.10 ERA. Then in the playoffs, he was 3-0 with a 3.54 ERA.
When told that Dessens said he initially had some trouble adjusting to the thin-air environment created by Mexico City's altitude, Wren said pitching there was considered more difficult than pitching in the mile-high Denver environment.
The Braves initially showed some interest in Dessens in June. But after the Mexican League rosters were locked on July 1, they agreed to begin talking to him again once his season concluded.
"I feel pretty good with my arm and everything," Dessens said. "I'm very thankful that the Braves gave me this opportunity."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.