ATLANTA -- Juan Jaime might have gained an unexpected spot in Atlanta's bullpen by displaying a little better command during the final couple weeks of Spring Training. But Jaime's days with the Braves might be numbered after he issued consecutive walks to begin the decisive eighth inning of Sunday afternoon's 4-3 loss to the Mets at Turner Field.
"It's not like it's the first time with Jaime," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said after his club dropped its first game of the season. "It's one of those things where he has got a good arm. It's just putting it all together. Today, we were behind the eight ball. That happens when you've won five in a row and you've used [Luis] Avilan and [Jim Johnson] two days in a row and [Brandon] Cunniff. So we went with what we had."
After Jonny Gomes drilled a game-tying home run off Bartolo Colon in the seventh inning, Gonzalez had limited options. Cody Martin had been pinch-hit for in the bottom of the seventh inning. Johnson, Avilan and Cuniff had all pitched both of the previous two days and three of the previous four.
Thus, with the game tied, Gonzalez had to choose between Andrew McKirahan, who had never thrown a pitch at the Major League level, or Jaime, who has issued 181 walks over the 259 2/3 innings he has compiled during his professional career.
The choice to go with Jaime immediately backfired as the hard-throwing, erratic reliever needed just 11 pitches to begin the eighth inning by issuing consecutive walks to Curtis Granderson and Anthony Recker. After Ruben Tejada was intentionally walked following Wilmer Flores' sacrifice bunt, McKirahan came out of the 'pen and got ahead with an 0-2 count before Daniel Murphy lofted his game-winning sacrifice fly to left field.
"After we score a run to tie it, you walk two to start the eighth inning and get yourself behind the eight ball," Gonzalez said. "Then somebody is going to face somebody they're not supposed to. That's not a real comfortable feeling walking the bases loaded and facing Murphy with a kid who hadn't thrown a pitch in the Major Leagues. [McKirahan] did a terrific job."
While McKirahan impressed with 1 2/3 scoreless innings in his Major League debut, Jaime provided reason for the Braves to wonder if they might have been fooled by the slightly improved control he showed during the final weeks of Spring Training. The 27-year-old reliever's roster candidacy was strengthened by the fact he is out of Minor League options.
But the Braves might soon be willing to subject Jaime to the waiver wire and dip into their farm system to find a more reliable reliever to strengthen their bullpen depth. A potential candidate is Michael Kohn, who worked two scoreless innings in his debut for Triple-A Gwinnett on Friday, but encountered some two-out trouble while working his second inning of relief on Sunday.
Before Sunday's eighth inning, the Braves bullpen had opened this season with 18 1/3 scoreless innings.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.