KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Instead of focusing on the frustration Jhoulys Chacin felt as he dealt with the long-standing effects of a shoulder ailment while pitching for two different organizations at the Triple-A level last year, the Braves instead gambled on the possibility that the veteran pitcher could build off of what he showed while pitching this past winter in Venezuela.
Really it was not much of a gamble because the Braves did not provide any guarantees with the Minor League deal Chacin signed in December. But the payoff could still prove valuable if the 28-year-old right-hander extends the success he has had through the early part of the Grapefruit League season.
"When I signed, my mindset was just to come to Spring Training as strong as I could be and to just pitch the only way I know how to pitch," Chacin said. "I've been pitching well, but nothing is known yet. I just want to go through all of this year and the rest of my career with my shoulder strong."
Chacin has surrendered three hits, issued a walk and recorded four strikeouts over the five scoreless innings he has completed through his first two appearances. More importantly, he has not felt any of the shoulder discomfort or fatigue that began bothering him near the end of the 2013 season, when he produced a 3.47 ERA over 31 starts for the Rockies.
Chacin's bid for a spot in Atlanta's rotation is strengthened by the fact that he is guaranteed just $950,000 if he is placed on the Major League roster. If he were to pitch well during the regular season, he will serve as an asset that could help the Braves remain competitive. If he were to struggle, the Braves would take a small financial hit and then have the chance to possibly fill the rotation spot with Aaron Blair or Tyrell Jenkins, two right-handed prospects who both could be deemed Major League-ready within the next couple months.
"I've been pleased with what I've seen," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of Chacin, who posted a 3.53 ERA over the 97 starts he made for the Rockies from 2010-13.
Chacin, Manny Banuelos and Williams Perez appear to be the favorites to fill the final two available spots in Atlanta's starting rotation. Blair remains in the mix, but the Braves may opt to allow him to develop a little more before beginning his arbitration clock.
If nothing else, Chacin finds himself in a much better situation than he was when lingering shoulder problems led the Rockies to release him after a disappointing 2014 season. Chacin spent a majority of last season pitching at the Triple-A level for the Indians and D-backs, but he did end up making five appearances for Arizona.
Though the past two seasons have been frustrating, Chacin says that the opportunity to make eight starts this past winter in Venezuela helped him gain confidence that he no longer has to worry about his shoulder.
"Right now, I feel really strong," Chacin said. "I feel normal. That's the thing that has really made me happy -- that I can throw and feel normal."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.