Vizcaino ready to be next Braves closer

Vizcaino ready to be next Braves closer

PHILADELPHIA -- Arodys Vizcaino spent this season's first three months serving a performance-enhancing drug suspension and has made just 32 career appearances at the Major League level. But the once highly-regarded pitching prospect now will get a chance to serve as Atlanta's closer.

With Jason Grilli sidelined by a season-ending Achilles injury and Jim Johnson traded to the Dodgers on Wednesday, Vizcaino will now draw the responsibility of protecting ninth-inning leads for the Braves, who have routinely altered the makeup of their bullpen throughout this season.

Andrew McKirahan, who also missed nearly all of this season's first half while serving a PED suspension, was the only member of the Braves bullpen on Thursday night who was on Atlanta's Opening Day roster. McKirahan likely would not have drawn that distinction had he not been a Rule 5 Draft pick in December.

Atlanta's bullpen includes two veterans -- Jason Frasor and David Aardsma -- who were acquired as free agents at different points within the past six weeks. But neither of them possess an overpowering repertoire like Vizcaino, whose plus fastball has averaged 96.3 mph this season.

Vizcaino has surrendered just one run and six hits in the nine innings he has completed since joining Atlanta's bullpen on July 6. The 24-year-old right-hander has recorded eight strikeouts and issued four unintentional walks, but not more than one in any of his 10 appearances.

As the Braves look toward next season, their closer candidates include Chris Withrow and Shae Simmons, who are both recovering from Tommy John surgery. But they will now take advantage of the opportunity to see how Vizcaino handles the role.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.