, Georgia (PressExposure) May 01, 2009 -- The 2009 Major League Baseball season is almost here! The Atlanta Braves season promises to be another year with hopes of regaining past glory. With all players on their roster under contract for the 2009 season, manager Bobby Cox and the Braves will focus on regaining the consistent pitching and stellar defense of the 90s and early 00s. The bright spots on the team should make for an interesting, even surprising, year as the Braves look to recapture the NL East division crown.
Bobby Cox has the familiar (albeit older) faces of Tom Glavin and Cipper Jones from those glory days of the 90s and early 00s on this current team but it will take more than that to overcome a three-year playoff drought. Before the current skid, the team had a glorious 14-year run of division titles. Rumor has it that Cox wants one more run at the post season before he says he's finished. As in years past, the formula for success for the Atlanta Braves may just be their pitching.
The 1-2 punch of Derek Lowe (14-11, 3.24 ERA, 34 starts) and Javier Vazquez (12-16, 4.67, 33 starts) should be worth watching. Future Hall of Famer Tom Glavine (2-4, 5.54 ERA, 13 starts) could end up being the number-three man on the mound and if he can regain some of his former glory it's hard to count him out. The fourth and fifth spots in the rotation would most likely be Japanese sensation Kenshin Kawakami (9-5, 2.30 ERA, 20 games) and 2nd year man Jair Jurrjens (13-10, 3.68 ERA, 31 starts). Jorge Campillo, who pitched well last season, and Tommy Hanson may also be fighting for that final spot this season. Hanson was MVP of the Arizona Fall League, the first pitcher to ever do that. Unfortunately, Tim Hudson can't be included in the mix due to 60-day DL.
There's very little doubt that the Brave's bullpen will get the most attention this year, if blessed with health. A strong Rafael Soriano and right-handed Australian reliever Peter Moylan could be the game's best setup pitchers although Mike Gonzalez will be Atlanta's number one closer to start the season. Blain Boyer will more than likely pitch less this year, which can only help his overall performance. As with any major league team, injuries can be a huge factor but the Braves seem to have an unusually large number of healthy arms this season.
The front office has obviously upgraded the rotation for their storied manager. Not every major league team can say that this year but not every team has to go up against two of the hottest organizations in baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets. After the Braves have had such an amazing run of success for nearly a decade and a half in their division, three years seems like a lifetime ago. If any team in baseball knows how to rise to the top via effective pitching, it's the Atlanta Braves. This year could be the year that the Atlanta Braves rise again to the top of the NL East.