Saturday, January 2, 2016

TOT: 2006 Was Not a Good Year for the Braves Bullpen

Transaction of Today...January 2, 2006 - The Atlanta Braves signed Scott Mullen as a free agent.

Lefthand relief was a mess for the 2006 Braves. Come to think of it, most things were a mess for that team. Chris Reitsma opened up the year as the closer and was shelled. The Braves turned to Jorge Sosa, which went about as bad you might think. 31 year-old Ken Ray even picked up five saves to match his 5.08 FIP. Finally, Bob Wickman brought some sense of decency to the ninth inning, but the rest of the bullpen was pretty bad.

Part of the problem, beyond an utter lack of talent, was the absense of dependable lefties. Macay McBride had reached the majors the previous year as part of the Baby Braves and John Foster had a 4.15 ERA in 62 games with the '05 Braves during his only substantial major league run of his career. He would get hurt and miss 2006. That left McBride and all things considered, he wasn't bad. He led the team with 71 games in mostly LOOGY situations, but he walked too many guys. Still, in a bad bullpen, he looked decent enough.

Chuck James was the closet thing to a second lefty, but he was moved to the rotation. The Braves tried the reanimated corpses of Wayne Franklin and Mike Remlinger, but never found a second lefty to replace Foster. Part of that problem came from Scott Mullen struggling in his return to American ball. He had spent two years, mostly as a bad starter, in Japan before the Braves brought him to camp with a shot to push Foster/McBride for a spot. He didn't stick and would stink for two months for Richmond before the Braves cut him in June, which ultimately put a bow on his career.

Mullen was a Braves' 49th rounder back in 1993, a draft that produced Kevin Millwood, Jermaine Dye, and John Rocker from Pick 11 to 18. Mullen declined to sign and enrolled in the Citadel before transferring to Dallas Baptist University. The Fighting Patriots! I kid, but DBU has some notable alumni including Ben Zobist and...other people who played in the majors like Lew Ford and Jason LaRue. Mullen is one of 21 DBU Pats to be selected in the first ten rounds after being picked by the Royals in the 7th round.

Expected to start, Mullen spent the first four years of his career as a starter, but wasn't impressive. Still, it got him to AAA and in 2000, after being moved to the pen, he would make his debut in ten games with the Royals. In his fourth game, David Justice homered as a member of the Yankees, but it was a decent enough cup of coffee. However, results soured in 2001. His ERA reached 6.62 in AAA and in 17 games in the majors, he walked 9 vs. just 3 K's.

Mullen would rebound in 2002 with his best year of his career. His ERA in the PCL was 2.61 when the Royals brought him up in June. He was a steady reliever for the 100-loss Royals, appearing in 44 games with a 3.15 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. Things were looking up for him, but 2003 was weak sauce all around. The Royals sent him to the Dodgers that July and the Dodgers thought "hey, give starting another try." It didn't work, but Mullen did get an emergency start on August 3 at Turner Field. Facing Russ Ortiz, the Dodgers jumped out to a 4-0 lead with the help of a Marcus Giles error that led to all first inning runs being unearned. Atlanta fought back with three in their half of the first, but the Dodgers would win 8-4. Mullen wasn't around for the decision after lasting three innings. he struck out against Ortiz in his only at-bat of his career. He would never again pitch in the majors.

After the season, he headed to Japan and had a 4.71 ERA in 28 starts. He came back to America, but pitched just one game in the Mariners' organization before moving back to Japan. His results were even worse, though he threw his first shutout since 1998 in the Carolina League. Since retiring after getting cut by the Braves, he returned to his former high school in Beaufort, SC and was a baseball coach there for a couple of years and also runs a baseball club for youth.

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