Carlyle gets settled in Braves' rotation

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ATLANTA - He has more job security now than at any point in his professional life. Even after a loss, no one is calling to tell him to pack his bags for Richmond, or Japan, or South Korea, or anywhere else he's been.

After playing for more than a dozen teams at various professional levels around the world, Braves pitcher Buddy Carlyle has settled into Atlanta's starting rotation this season after an emergency start in May. The right-hander has a 7-4 record and 4.39 ERA. He earned his first win of the season in June, nearly eight years after his first career victory in the majors.  AP / File
AP / File
After playing for more than a dozen teams at various professional levels around the world, Braves pitcher Buddy Carlyle has settled into Atlanta's starting rotation this season after an emergency start in May. The right-hander has a 7-4 record and 4.39 ERA. He earned his first win of the season in June, nearly eight years after his first career victory in the majors.

Still, Buddy Carlyle is reluctant to call his starting pitching job with the Braves permanent.

"I still don't have that feeling," Carlyle said. "It's not that I've been let down so many times. It's just that I don't really expect to be treated like anybody really cares about me."

Carlyle, 29, turned an emergency start in late May into his first regular gig in the majors, and he has tightened his hold on the job with almost every start. But his perspective is still that of someone who has known only change, after a minor-league career that twice took him across the globe and back.

That's not a bad thing, given his results. Carlyle has given the Braves all they need from a No. 4 starter, and often more. At worst, he keeps them in games, which is better than what some other back-of-the-rotation starters have done this year.

"He's become somebody that goes out there and gives us an opportunity to win every fifth day," pitching coach Roger McDowell said. "I'm sure it has a lot to do with the fact that after spending so much time with all the travels, he's been given the opportunity. And he's taking advantage of it."

Carlyle is 7-4 with a 4.39 ERA this year. He has won six of his past eight decisions. Before this year, he had only one victory in the majors. And it came almost eight years earlier, when he was a 21-year-old rookie making his debut with the San Diego Padres. He had no way of knowing what would come next.

After that initial win, Carlyle appeared in just 20 major-league games before this year while playing in the minors with four other organizations. All told, he has worn the jerseys of 15 different teams at various professional levels.

In 2001 and 2002, he played in Japan. A year ago, he was playing for a team in Seoul, South Korea, chowing down on kimchi and communicating with coaches through a translator.

By the time Carlyle signed with the Braves last offseason, he was a much better pitcher than when he debuted with the Padres. He added a cut fastball to his repertoire and increased his velocity a tad.

But he ran into some hard luck. In 2006, he posted a 1.93 ERA in 13 games with the Florida Marlins' Triple-A affiliate in Albuquerque, N.M., but was told by team officials that they had no plans to use him in the majors.

Once they reach a certain age, McDowell said, pitchers like Carlyle can easily get stuck. Many teams would prefer to fill a roster spot with a home-grown youngster rather than a lesser-known free agent signing. And at first, that's what the Braves did, calling up 24-year-old Anthony Lerew instead of Carlyle when Mark Redman didn't work out.

But the Braves called him up after Lerew got hurt. And in his second start, on June 5, he earned his first win in the majors since 1999, throwing a one-hitter in seven innings against the Marlins.

The feel-good moment lasted about five minutes. Carlyle was sent back to Triple-A Richmond.

But a few days later, as the Carlyles were driving north through North Carolina, Buddy's cell phone rang. It turned out to be the pivotal moment of his season. Lance Cormier had just gone on the disabled list, and the Braves wanted Carlyle back in the rotation.

By then, all he and his wife could do was laugh as they turned around.

"With all the crazy stuff that's happened in his career," Jessica said, "it just seemed fitting."

Reach Brian Costa at brian.costa@morris.com.


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