Originally created 04/08/06

Devine makes quick return to majors



SAN FRANCISCO - Joey Devine uses the word blessed quite a bit when talking about pitching with the Atlanta Braves.

The past few days have put a little more emphasis on that word for the young reliever, too.

Because of a numbers crunch coming out of spring training, Atlanta made a somewhat surprising decision a week ago by leaving Devine off the Opening Day roster, optioning him instead to Triple-A Richmond.

After a leg injury to Horacio Ramirez landed him on the disabled list and John Thomson was subsequently moved from the bullpen back to the starting rotation, a reliever spot opened Thursday, before Devine even tossed an inning in Richmond.

But the time elapsed was plenty long enough for Devine to appreciate what being in the majors means to him at age 22.

That's the case even after some of the adversity he pitched through late last season. He gave up grand slams in his first two appearances and allowed the game-winning home run in the 18th inning of Atlanta's NLDS loss to Houston.

"Once you get up here, you don't want to go back," said Devine, who had plenty of time to contemplate his state while driving from Atlanta to Richmond. "You want to do whatever it takes to stay up here."

And, so, Devine said, that has become his goal, to never pitch another inning in the minors, even though he rocketed through the system last summer without lengthy stays at any stop.

"My goal is to do whatever it takes to stay at this level," Devine said. "That's a pretty good goal to establish for yourself. If you do that, you're going to have many years at this level."

Devine looked strong in preseason camp. Midway through the spring, Devine led the Grapefruit League in strikeouts.

He finished with 18 strikeouts and just four walks. He did allow 13 hits in 11 innings, but gave up just three earned runs.

"Now's the time to focus on getting better," Devine said.

Reach R. Travis Haney at travis.haney@morris.com.