Braves' Hoover Wants To Make The Most Of Bullpen Move

ATLANTA—Don't expect to see J.J. Hoover run on to the field doing back-flips in the Arizona Fall League when he relieves for the Surprise Saguaros. That scenario also didn't happen during the second half of the season, when the righthander was moved from the Double-A Mississippi rotation to the bullpen in mid-June.

That's not to say Hoover is sulking about the change. He's the first to admit he would rather be starting but realizes his job is to do what the organization thinks will allow him to contribute best at some point in the major leagues.

"That's the goal, to pitch in the big leagues," Hoover said. "Whatever it takes to get there, that's what I'm willing to do."

It wasn't that the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Hoover was struggling as a starter. A 10th-round pick in 2008, he won a combined 20 games during the 2009 and 2010 campaigns before opening 2011 in the Southern League with a 2-5, 2.79 record during the first half. Despite his success, the Atlanta front office looked at its deep starting pitching in the upper reaches of the organization, including such rookies as Brandon Beachy, Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado, and decided a few pitchers needed new roles.

"There's so much pitching up and down this organization," Hoover said. "It's ridiculous."

The shift caused Hoover to shelve his changeup and curveball for the time being. His changeup had shown improvement, so much so that Hoover was throwing it about 15 times a game. As a reliever, his approach centered on going right after hitters with hard stuff, which means his low-90s fastball and sharp slider.

The early returns were impressive. After posting a 1.40 ERA in 18 relief outings in the Southern League, Hoover was even more dominant following his promotion to Triple-A Gwinnett in August. In 14 innings, he surrendered no runs and 12 hits while striking out 26 batters and walking only six. Hoover admits he was trying to force the issue in order to get a September callup but is looking forward to proving himself in big league camp next spring.

Wigwam Wisps

• The Braves annouced that Ronnie Richardson will replace Kurt Kemp as director of player development. Richardson had been Kemp's assistant. Assistant general manager Bruce Manno will oversee the minor league department.

• Other than struggling at times with his control, Dimasther Delgado bounced back well from missing all of 2010 due to injuries sustained in a car accident. The lefthander went 9-6, 3.94 at high Class A Lynchburg while allowing 86 hits in 96 innings.