LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Atlanta fans know the Brandon Beachy story. The rest of the baseball world might know it soon enough.
The right-hander might go from being someone few Braves fan had heard of two years ago when made his first major league start in a mid-September game in Philadelphia in the heart of a pennant race to being the anchor of this year’s staff.
He was replacing Braves starter Jair Jurrjens back then. Now the 25-year-old Beachy needs to step up again with Tim Hudson sidelined until May with a back injury, and Tommy Hanson and Jurrjens battling minor injuries.
Longevity will be a key for Beachy this season.
He went at least seven innings in only two of his 25 starts last season. He is trying to limit his pitch count to go further into the late innings when he can turn the ball over to closer Craig Kimbrel.
“The strikeouts are nice, but I need to cut down on the pitches so I can get deeper into the game,” Beachy said. “This year I am concentrating on limiting my pitches.”
Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez wants to see the same thing, instead of Beachy leaving after five innings.
“The fifth is the inning that gets to some pitchers,” Gonzalez said. “It would be perfect to get him to the eighth. But that kid has it all figured out.”
Not bad for somebody who estimates he might have thrown six innings for Northwestern High School in Kokomo, Ind. Beachy was an infielder who spent time as a closer at Indiana Wesleyan University.
He was discovered in a Virginia summer league by a Braves scout who offered a bonus to sign with nothing but potential on the horizon. He spent 2009 in the Braves low minors.
Beachy had a 2.17 ERA in Triple A before the Braves called him up to the big leagues for that stretch run in 2010. He started 25 games last season – more than he started his entire minor league career.
Beachy said he wasn’t expecting to make it to the majors as quickly as he did but his attitude on and off the mound shows he feels like he belongs. He is a potential Opening Day starter, depending on the condition of Hanson and Jurrjens.
Braves’ pitching coach Roger McDowell said it is the mental toughness that makes Beachy an important member of Atlanta’s staff.
“We never rushed him,” McDowell said. “He’s a strong kid with a great work ethic. This year he will; play a pivotal role on our staff.”
For now, Beachy is the No. 3 man in the rotation. By the time Hudson returns, it will be up to Beachy to see where he fits into the rotation.