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Fifth Starter: Lance Cormier?

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Prepare yourselves folks, I'm starting to get the feeling that the Braves may want to give Kyle Davies more time to regain his confidence in triple-A before throwing him back into a major league rotation. There were some hints reported by both DOB and Bowman that Cox is keeping an open mind about who might start the season as the fifth man in the rotation. I've said it a lot this off-season as well, that without a really impressive spring I don't think Davies will make the rotation. Let's take a look at one of the contenders for the fifth spot, Lance Cormier.

Really, don't laugh; I think he has a great shot at being the fifth guy. He did some starting in the minors last year with moderate success; 4-3, 3.95 ERA in 9 starts and 54.2 IP, including one shutout. And while he was not very successful during his first few starts in the majors, he settled into the role. Remember, this is a guy who had been a reliever since 2004, and perhaps an overused one at that (see Bob Brenley's guide to managing a pitching staff into the ground). Over his last five starts with the Braves he was 2-and-1 with a 3.25 ERA. That's right, I'll repeat, a 3.25 ERA. Now while that is just a five game sample size, that's not too shabby a way to end the season. That stretch also included a ten-strikeout game against the Cubs.

Cormier is no longer a young player, he is a guy who's been around for several years and has performed capably in several different roles. But how would he fare in the starting role for a full season? He was better last year as a starter than a reliever, and I think if we just look at how he finished the year we see the true measure of his ability. Since he had been a reliever for the past season and a half he had to rebuild the arm strength needed to start games and last five or six innings. In September we saw it all gel together for him, and he was therefore able to go deeper into games with more success.

This time of year is when we look for guys to come out of nowhere to impress their manager and coaches, and Cormier could be a guy who does that this spring. Look for both him and Davies to prepare as though they would each be the fifth starter. But in the end, unless Davies is dominant this spring, look for Cormier to slip into the fifth spot to open the season. I for one really think he might be ready to be a capable back of the rotation starter; sort of this year's Damian Moss or Paul Byrd (with perhaps a little more upside).