Braves grab Linebrink in swap with White Sox
Atlanta sends prospect Cofield to Chicago for bullpen help
ATLANTA -- Braves general manager Frank Wren's desire to add experience to his bullpen mix has allowed Scott Linebrink to fulfill his desire to pitch for Atlanta.
When Linebrink was one of the National League's top setup men, the Braves were unsuccessful in their attempt to acquire him before the 2007 Trade Deadline. A few months later when he became a free agent, the veteran reliever found himself hoping to land in Atlanta.
Linebrink would have to wait another three years. But he admitted this just added to the excitement he felt Friday morning, when he learned that the White Sox had traded him to the Braves in exchange for Minor League right-hander Kyle Cofield.
Getting to Know Kyle Cofield
|Selected in the eighth round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft by the Braves out of high school, Cofield has the prototypical pitcher's body -- a 6-foot-5, 230-pound workhorse-type frame. He's moved one station at a time during his Minor League career, staying at one level per year. He's gone 25-26 with a 4.12 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP in 485 total innings. He's appeared in 118 games (82 starts). In 2010, he spent most of the year with Double-A Mississippi, going 1-3 with a 4.39 ERA in 18 games in the Southern League. Ten of those games were starts, and he was responding well to a move to the bullpen, posting a 1.84 ERA over eight games in relief. Batters hit just .211 against him when he was coming out of the 'pen.|
|That appears to be his future role, and he was set to continue working on the transition in the Arizona Fall League until a knee issue forced him to be shut down. He's expected to be at full strength by Spring Training. Cofield's biggest problem has been control and command, which is why a shortened bullpen role might make more sense.|
|Cofield, 23, throws a fastball in the 91-94-mph range with an above-average curveball. He does have a developing changeup, but it may not be as vital that he continue to perfect that pitch if he's pitching in relief. Even out of the 'pen, he'll have to improve his command that has led to a career 4.9 BB/9 ratio. Not on the 40-man roster, Cofield will be eligible for the Rule 5 Draft -- to be held Thursday.|
"I'm thrilled and very excited to be a part of the Braves' organization," Linebrink said. "I was real interested in going to Atlanta after the 2007 season. But that makes the culmination of all of this that much sweeter, because we just had to wait a little longer."
The Braves also received $3.5 million from the White Sox. This will help offset a portion of the $5.5 million that Linebrink is owed heading into the final year of his contract.
While in the Orlando area earlier this week for a conference for Christian athletes, Linebrink took time to reminisce on his days with the Astros, when he was introduced to a closer named Billy Wagner. Coincidently, Wagner managed to play a role in Linebrink's journey to Atlanta.
After seeing how well Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters reacted to the veteran presence Wagner provided this past season, Wren entered this offseason determined to add experience to a bullpen mix that will be anchored by the youthful talents of Kimbrel and Venters.
Having been part of bullpens that were anchored by Wagner, Trevor Hoffman and Robb Nen aided his development, Linebrink has been surrounded by strong influences throughout his career. The Braves are hoping that in the process of proving effective on the mound, he will be able to relay what he's learned over the years to aid in the development of both Kimbrel and Venters.
"[Linebrink] fits the criteria we laid out for this really well," Wren said. "He has that veteran presence we were seeking, and he's been surrounded by three of the greatest closers of our generation. We're hoping that he can impart that knowledge and also continue to pitch at a high level for us."
Linebrink's value might not be as high as it was when he posted a 2.73 ERA in the 306 appearances he made for the Padres from 2003 through the first four months of the '07 season. Since signing with the White Sox before the '08 season, he has made 159 appearances and posted a 4.28 ERA.
Moving back to the NL may prove beneficial for Linebrink, a native Texan who admits he's looking forward to once again having the opportunity to pitch in warm-weather conditions on a routine basis.
"A change of scenery is always good," Linebrink said. "I'm looking forward to getting back to the heat in the south. I certainly won't miss that snow in April or the cold rain in May."
Linebrink went 3-2 with a 4.40 ERA and allowed a .262 batting average in 52 appearances for the White Sox last year. Opponents hit just .203 (15-for-74) against him with runners in scoring position.
"My arm feels great," Linebrink said. "Everything feels great. This just gives me even more motivation while I get ready for the season."
Cofield went 1-3 with a 4.39 ERA in 18 appearances (10 starts) for Double-A Mississippi this past summer. The 23-year-old right-handed reliever was selected by the Braves in the eighth round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.