Braves Beef Up Bullpen

Soriano shoud give Braves much needed relief

Looking to beef up a bullpen that finished 11th in the National League with a 4.39 ERA in 2006, Atlanta sent lefthander Horacio Ramirez to the Mariners for righthander reliever Rafael Soriano.

When healthy, Soriano has been a dominant reliever. In 2006 he posted a 2.25 ERA in 60 innings with a 65-21 strikeout-walk ratio though he was sidelined at one point with shoulder soreness. His season was cut short when he was struck by a line drive in the head in late August and though he tried to come back, the Mariners shut him down in September. It was particularly bad luck for Soriano after battling back from a nearly two year layoff because of Tommy John surgery that limited him to 11 innings between 2004 and 2005. In 2003 Soriano was one of the most dominant relievers in baseball when he posted a 1.53 ERA in 53 innings with a 68-12 strikeout-walk ratio. The 26-year-old features a lively mid-90s fastball that he complements with a hard slider.

Like Soriano, Ramirez has battled injuries for much of his career. He battled back from Tommy John surgery as a minor leaguer, and his 2006 season was derailed by a hamstring injury, a pulled tendon in his finger and he was also hit in the head with a line drive. This trio of injuries limited him to 76 innings in which he went 5-5, 4.48. He went 11-9, 4.63 in 2005 in 202 innings but threw just 60 innings in 2004 because of a nagging shoulder injury. The 27-year-old features a fastball that sits in the 88-91 mph range along with a cut fastball and changeup. Ramirez has is often unwilling to challenge hitters, and this has led to an uninspiring 248-200 strikeout-walk ratio in 521 major league innings.

With the return of Mike Hampton in 2007, Ramirez was deemed expendable by the Braves who desperately need bullpen help. Ramirez will slot into the back end of the Mariners rotation and should fill the spot vacated by righthander Gil Meche, who appears set to leave via free agency. Soriano should provided the Braves with a dominant bullpen arm, but he has yet to prove he can stay healthy so he carries some risk.