Braves' Gearrin's Climb Reaches Atlanta

ATLANTA—With birds of a feather flocking together, it makes perfect sense that Cory Gearrin mirrored every move made by fellow sidearmer Peter Moylan during spring training.

Ironically, it was Moylan's placement on the disabled list with lower-back discomfort that led to Gearrin, 25, making his major league debut during the last week of April. He responded with Moylan-esque effectiveness by tossing three shutout innings in San Diego over his first two relief appearances.

"Peter has been a huge help to me," said Gearrin, who was placed on the 40-man roster last fall upon completing a successful stint in the Arizona Fall League. "I threw with him just about every day, and we even watched some film together and he made a few suggestions. There aren't a lot of guys who throw with our arm slot, so having him in the same organization has been very beneficial for me."

Drafted in the fourth round in 2007 out of Mercer, Gearrin blossomed in 2009 while splitting the campaign between the high Class A and Double-A ranks and saving 19 games in 47 outings. That led to a full season at Triple-A Gwinnett last year, with the 6-foot-3, 200-pound righthander allowing just 72 hits in 80 games and going 3-5, 3.36.

According to Gearrin, the key to his success in 2010 was the development of his changeup. He has thrown his solid-average fastball and slider for strikes since his college days but did not have a third pitch to keep hitters off-balance until he worked with pitching coach Derek Botelho at Gwinnett. His changeup is now effective against batters from both sides of the plate, with the pitch working away from lefthanded hitters (who hit just .167 against him this year at Gwinnett) while running inside on righties.

"I feel like I'm much more of a pitcher now than I was a year or two ago," Gearrin said. "Last season was big because I threw more innings and made more appearances than I ever had. I was healthy the entire season and I showed the Braves my durability."

Wigwam Wisps

• Tim Gustafson, who failed to earn a spot on a full-season team coming out of spring training, retired the first 18 Huntsville batters he faced to pick up the win for Double-A Mississippi on May 2. The righthanded Gustafson has lowered his arm slot in his delivery, which he says feels more natural and produces more of a cutting action on his pitches.

• Minor league pitching coordinator Dave Wallace filled in on the Atlanta staff while Roger McDowell was suspended for two weeks after his run-in with some fans in San Francisco.