If you're wondering why the Atlanta Braves have made Luiz Gohara a four-levels-in-one-season guy, it's because they want him to feel as if he belongs at the highest level. He started the year in High-A. He made his Triple-A debut on July 28. He made his first big-league start two days after Labor Day. He's moving fast.
His four innings against the Rangers on Wednesday afternoon were mostly forgettable. He got 12 outs and generated eight baserunners (four hits, four walks). He yielded six earned runs. His ERA in the bigs is 13.50. But ...
He struck out six in four innings. His fastball popped, as you'd expect. His slider slid, which is a big deal for any pitcher. If you have a big fastball and a nasty slider, you've got a chance to be here a good long while. Gohara has that chance.
"He can get major-league hitters out," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "There's no question about that. It's just a matter of command."
The Braves know full well that Gohara, with 127 2/3 innings over four levels, has nearly doubled his previous professional high. That's part of the reason they've adopted, at least for the moment, a six-man rotation. They want to see what he can do, but they don't want to overtax a pitcher who just turned 21. Because they think he has a chance to make their team coming out of spring training.
Unlike last winter, the offseason ahead doesn't figure to see the Braves in heated pursuit of a starting pitcher. Figure Julio Teheran, who has had a terrible year, doesn't get traded because the Braves don't want to receive pennies on the dollar in return. Figure Mike Foltynewicz, recent wobbles aside, has done enough to merit inclusion in next year's rotation. Figure the team exercises its option and retains R.A. Dickey. That's three starters.
For the other two slots, the Braves could pick from Gohara, Sean Newcomb and Max Fried -- all power left-handers, all who've made their big-league bow this summer. We know from the egregious failures of Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair that not every young pitcher delivers on his promise, but these three lefties throw harder than Wisler and Blair, and they are, duh, left-handed.
I know it sometimes seems the Braves are going nowhere fast. At such a time, I'd suggest that Gohara's arrival be read as another sign of gentle progress. He has a bigger arm than Wisler and Blair, meaning hope is being replaced by expectation. No, not all prospects pan out, but eventually some of them will -- and the greater the talent, the less the chance of failure.
And we say again: As much as the Braves like these three young lefties, the pitchers they absolutely love are the ones they've drafted (Allard, Soroka, Anderson, Wentz and Wright.) They're not quite ready. They might be by this time next year. Contrary to popular belief, the Braves do have starting pitching. Some of it is here already.