Notable Atlanta Braves Reunions Since 2003: Pitcher Edition

April 28, 2010; St. Louis, MO, USA; Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Jesse Chavez (43) delivers a pitch to a St. Louis Cardinals batter in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
April 28, 2010; St. Louis, MO, USA; Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Jesse Chavez (43) delivers a pitch to a St. Louis Cardinals batter in the eighth inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /

Last time, we looked at notable Atlanta Braves reunions: hitters edition. This week we’re taking a look at some pitchers who had two (or more) stints with the club since 2003. In this edition, we’ll be looking at one of the greatest pitchers in Braves history, a guy with an old-school windup, our favorite hat-wearing magician, 2/3s of O’Ventebrel, and a few others.

Notable Atlanta Braves reunions since 2003: pitchers edition

Paul Byrd (1997-1998; 2004)

Currently one of the Braves analysts on Bally Sports, Paul Byrd originally joined the Braves in an offseason trade that sent Greg McMichael to the Mets. McMichael had been a dependable part of the Braves rotation, pitching no less than 58.2 innings in relief during his four seasons with Atlanta. However, after the 1996 season, the Braves looked to cut payroll and the reliever was one of the casualties.

Byrd’s first stint in Atlanta was unexceptional. In his season-and-a-half in the organization, Byrd pitched 55 innings (all but two of which happened during the 1997 season), the righty had a 5.56 ERA and a -0.1 fWAR. The Phillies selected him off waivers in August of 1998, which set into motion his career as a dependable starter. Byrd played for the Phillies until 2001, and for the Royals from 2001-2002.

After his 2002 season, Byrd signed a two-year deal back with the Braves in 2003. This tenure, however, was cut short thanks to Tommy John. However, once Byrd came back in 2004, he was, once again, a solid starter on a team that eventually won their 13th straight division title. In 114.1 innings across 19 starts, he accumulated 1.7 fWAR.

He wouldn’t stay on for long, however, because after his two-year contract expired, Byrd signed a one-year deal with the Angels and would go on to play in the majors for another five seasons, playing for Cleveland and Boston as well.

Byrd is also known for having an old-school, double-pump windup, which he developed in Kansas City. I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a video of it in this article. This is from the final game in 2004, which also happened to be Greg Maddux’s first start against the Braves since 1992. One-year-wonder, Charles Thomas, hit two homers against the all-time great.

Tom Glavine (1987-2002; 2008)

Easily the best pitcher on the list, Tom Glavine likely had one of the most underwhelming returns of the bunch.

Detailing the Hall-of-Famer’s first tenure with the Braves would take too long, but here’s a quick rundown. After coming up in 1987, the lefty was decent through his first four seasons in the bigs, topping out at 2.9 fWAR in 1990.

In 1991, however, Glavine found a near gear. From 1991 until 2002, the lefty appeared in eight All-Star games, won two Cy Youngs (including four other top-3 finishes), and won four Silver Sluggers. He also pitched eight shutout innings against the Cleveland Indians in the final game of the 1995 World Series, which earned him the World Series MVP.

Along with John Smoltz and Greg Maddux, Glavine helped anchor down the Big Three, which is probably the greatest starting trio in baseball history and one that lasted for almost a decade once Maddux joined the club in 1993. During that 10-season run, the trio combined for 147.7 fWAR, with 38.2 of the WAR coming from Glavine.

After the end of the 2002 season, Glavine hit free agency, but some teams, including the Phillies, believed he would end up returning to Atlanta. He did not. Instead, Tom Glavine signed a three-year, $35 million deal with an option for a fourth year with one of the Braves’ biggest rivals, the New York Mets. In a messy divorce very similar to a recent Braves’ departure, Glavine was looking for an extra year and the Braves management refused to budge. The lefty said the two sides were very close and not close at all.

Glavine had a mixed reception when he first pitched in Atlanta as a member of the visiting team in 2003. His first start back was terrible, allowing six runs in 3.1 innings as he tried to fight off blisters.

He’d go on to pitch five seasons with New York, re-signing with the team on a one-year deal after 2006. While the Hall-of-Famer provided consistency, pitching no fewer than 183.1 innings, his performance was more average than anything. In the five seasons with the Mets, he accumulated exactly 12 fWAR, appearing in just one All-Star game.

There was talk about a Glavine reunion prior to the 2007 season, but the Braves ultimately weren’t able to make him an offer until the following offseason. Prior to the 2008 season, Glavine, who turned 42 before the season began, signed a one-year deal with the Braves.

What started as an exciting reunion quickly disappointed, as Glavine only started 13 games and had a 5.54 ERA before his season ended with a shoulder injury. Prior to the shoulder injury, Glavine injured his hamstring and found himself on the DL for the first time in his career.

He’d re-sign with the Braves for the 2009 season but was released as he tried to rehab his way back to the team in June. Instead of Glavine, the team opted to call up Tommy Hanson, who was the top prospect at the time. Interestingly enough, Glavine was released on the same day that another Braves pitcher who appears on this list was traded to the Pirates.

While there weren’t many highlights from his second stint, enjoy this video of the final out of his career:

Peter Moylan (2006-2012; 2015; 2018)

Your favorite Australian pitcher is the only three-stint pitcher on this Atlanta Braves reunions list (although there’s a four-stinter later on). Peter Moylan first joined the Atlanta Braves organization after being discovered during the World Baseball Classic. Moylan had briefly played in the Twins organization in the late 90s, but had returned to Australia and worked with a pharmaceutical company as a salesman. The Braves liked what they saw and signed him, and Moylo made his major league debut the same year in April.

While you likely remember Moylan for his side-armed pitching delivery, he didn’t always throw that way, at least not all the way. When he first made his debut, he threw much more upright.

Moylan was productive when he did pitch during his first tenure with the Braves. His 2007 was especially outstanding when he pitched 90 innings in relief (90!!) and had a 1.80 ERA. However, there were several injuries that cut seasons short. He missed most of 2008, 2011, and 2012 thanks to a variety of injuries ranging from Tommy John to a bad back. Moylan left after the 2012 season for the Dodgers.

My favorite fact from the Aussie’s first tenure with the Braves was not what he did on the mound, however, but what he did at the plate. In 2007, he pinch-hit in a 14-run game and hit into a double play. This was eventually how Moylo got into exactly 500 games.

After spending 2013 in the Dodgers organization in which he struggled, allowing 11 runs in just 15.1 innings, the Aussie sidewinder latched on with Houston, but underwent Tommy John and was released before he had an opportunity to appear with the club at the big league level.

He returned to the Braves organization in 2015, signing a two-year minor league deal that would allow him to rehab and coach at Gwinnett. He’d pitch predominantly with the AAA team but would pitch in 22 games for the big league club, allowing four earned runs in 10.1 innings.

This would mark the end of his second stint with the team, as he’d leave again for Kansas City, and he’d make 129 appearances with the Royals across two seasons. His 79 relief appearances in 2017 led the major leagues.

Peter Moylan would make one last go-around with the Braves in 2018 when he signed a one-year major league deal. He appeared in 39 games but was ineffective, walking a career-high 14% of all batters.

On July 31st, Moylan was placed on the IL with a right forearm strain and he wouldn’t be reactivated. He would retire before the following season and is now a part of Bally Sports and Jomboy Media.

Moylan did make a nice play on his final pitch in the majors, snagging this liner off of Braves legend, Matt Kemp, and turning a double play.

Eric O’Flaherty (2009-2013; 2016-2017)

The first member of the iconic O’Ventebrel bullpen trio to appear on the Atlanta Braves reunions list, Eric O’Flaherty first joined the Braves organization in 2009 when he was claimed off of waivers from the Seattle Mariners. Up to that point, O’Flaherty had been an uninspiring member of the Mariners bullpen, as he held a 5.91 ERA in 70 innings from 2006-2008.

Once he joined the team, EOF became one of the most dependable parts of the Braves’ pen. From 2009 through 2013, the lefty appeared in 295 games, pitched 249.1 innings, and had a 1.99 ERA. 2011 was his most impressive season, as he had an ERA under 1.00 (0.98) while pitching in 73.2 innings. With this, he became the first reliever in major league history to have an ERA under 1.00 and who appeared in at least 70 games.

Despite being one of the best relievers in the league for half a decade, O’Flaherty never received any accolades, including not being selected for an All-Star game, and never even recorded a save with Atlanta.  His first tenure would come to a close after tearing his UCL in May of 2013, just months after Jonny Venters tore his UCL for the second time during Spring Training.

He’d leave the Braves in 2014 when he signed a two-year deal with Oakland. His first season with the A’s went well once he returned from Tommy John Surgery in July. EOF appeared in 21 games and had a 2.25 ERA. 2015 was disastrous, however, as he finished the season with an 8.10 ERA in 30 innings, appearing with the A’s and the Mets.

O’Flaherty would reunite with the Braves in 2016 during the height of the rebuild. He had initially signed a minor league deal with the Pirates but was traded to the Braves prior to the start of the season. His second stint was far less effective than his first, as he was often injured and didn’t pitch well when he did. He had a 7.28 ERA in his two final seasons with Atlanta, appearing in 61 games.

With no real incentive to win, the Braves stashed O’Flaherty on the team long enough to help him reach 10 years of service, which meant he’d receive a full pension from MLB, before cutting him in July of 2017.

Despite his excellence in relief, his most iconic moment with the team likely came in this triple ejection, after what should’ve been a called third strike against former Brave J.D. Drew was called a ball, and Drew turned the extra life for a go-ahead double. Eric O’Flaherty was ejected along with Chipper Jones and Bobby Cox.

Jonny Venters (2010-2012; 2018-2019)

The second member of O’Ventebrel on this Atlanta Braves reunions list, Jonny Venters was originally a 30th-round draft pick in the 2003 draft. Initially a starter, the lefty slowly moved up the ranks in the minors, although he had a few setbacks along the way. The first was Tommy John Surgery in 2005 which shut down his entire 2006 season. The second was in 2008 when he was demoted down to rookie ball as a 23-year-old.

In 2010, after two appearances in AAA (one start and one relief appearance), the Braves called him up on April 17th, and for the next three seasons, Venters, armed with his turbo sinker, didn’t look back.

From 2010 through 2012, it was hard to find a better reliever than Venters. His 2.23 ERA across the three seasons was 8th, behind only his teammates, Craig Kimbrel and Eric O’Flaherty, and guys like Mariano Rivera and Kenly Jansen. He also threw the 3rd most innings as a reliever with 229.2 and was chosen for the 2011 All-Star game.

He looked like he’d be a staple of the bullpen coming into 2013, but left elbow discomfort shut him down in Spring Training, and attempts to avoid Tommy John failed, as he underwent the surgery in May of that year.

Venters would miss the next five seasons trying to come back from Tommy John. In 2014 he tore his UCL again, necessitating his third Tommy John (and second in two years), and his first Braves tenure officially ended after the 2014 season.

He’d latch on with Tampa Bay in 2015 on a two-year minor league deal that would allow him to rehab, but in July of 2016, he’d once again tear his UCL. He avoided Tommy John for the fourth time and he was able to pitch in the minors in 2016 and 2017, but it wasn’t until April of 2018 that he finally appeared in another big league game, over 2000 days since his last appearance.

The lefty’s stay in Tampa Bay, at least at the major league level was short-lived, however, lasting only 14 innings, in which he allowed six runs. After almost exactly four months with the Rays, the team traded him to Atlanta for an international signing bonus slot.

He was solid in his first season back with Atlanta, pitching 28 games (20.1 innings) and holding a 3.54 ERA. On the whole, Venters pitched 34.1 innings across 50 games in 2018 with a 3.67 ERA. He’d win the Comeback Player of the Year and the Brave would re-sign him for 2019.

Unfortunately, the end of Venters’ tenure with the Braves was ugly. He allowed 13 runs (nine earned) in just 4.2 innings. He had two IL stints but the Braves would eventually release him in May of 2019.

He signed with the Washington Nationals and pitched equally as bad before the Nationals shut him down completely midseason, ending his playing career. While this would normally be a disappointing way to end a rollercoaster career, there was a silver lining, as the 2019 Nationals won the World Series, meaning he received a ring for being on the team.

Charlie Morton (2008; 2021-present)

The first of two current members of the team on the Atlanta Braves reunions list, he was originally a third-round draft pick by the Braves back in 2002, Charlie Morton worked his way through the minors, never appearing at more than one level a year. For his first six minor league seasons, there was nothing impressive about the prospect. He never had an ERA below 4.29 and he even repeated Single-A in 2005.

However, his 2008 was a breakout season, and in 79 innings at Richmond, Morton had a 2.05 ERA. This was good enough for him to receive a promotion to Atlanta on June 14, 2005. He struggled in 15 starts (16 games) with the big-league club, holding a 6.15 ERA and a better, but still unimpressive 5.14 FIP.

Morton began the 2009 season in the minors, where he impressed again, but never saw time in Atlanta, as he was shipped off in the Nate McLouth trade that June. This tenure in Pittsburgh was mostly unimpressive. Across seven seasons, Morton only accumulated 7.2 fWAR.

In 2016, with Philadelphia, he only pitched 17.1 innings thanks to injury, but he discovered that he could both strike out batters and throw his fastball harder than 93 MPH. The Astros saw this and signed him to a two-year, $14 million deal. In 2017, his average fastball velocity jumped from his previous career-best of 94.2 (2010) to 95.8. His strikeout rate jumped from his previous career best of 18.9% (2014) to 28.9%.

This change reinvigorated Morton’s career, as he went from a fringe starter to an All-Star level pitcher at 33 years old. After his run in Houston ended in 2018, Morton latched on with the Rays in 2019 and pitched two seasons before returning to Atlanta in 2021.

Morton’s first season back was the second-best in his career, putting up 4.5 fWAR in 185.2 innings, and helped lead the team to their first WS in 26 years (and his second ring), although he did break his shin in the process.

This past season was more of a mixed bag, as Morton actually increased his strikeout rate, but walked more batters and saw his homer rate double. On the whole, he was worth 1.5 fWAR, but the Braves front office believed in his stuff enough to renew his contract for 2023, with an option for 2024.

Morton’s career trajectory is one of the weirdest in modern baseball, considering the sink-or-swim approach most teams take with young players, but I’m happy that Morton has turned it into a 14+ year career.

Here’s Charlie striking out a batter on a broken shin:

Jesse Chavez (2010; 2021; 2022-present)

Our final entry on this Atlanta Braves reunions list is a guy whose first stint you might not even remember. Acquired in a salary dump from Tampa Bay for Rafael Soriano, who had surprised the Braves after accepting their Type A arbitration offer, the then 26-year-old Jesse Chavez had two years of big league experience coming into 2010. He’d make the team out of Spring Training, but would pitch poorly in his first half-season with the Braves. in 36.2 innings, the glasses-less Chavez had a 5.89 ERA.

His first stint with the Braves would end when he was traded to the Royals along with Grégor Blanco and Tim Collins for Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth. This would be the fourth time the righty would be traded in his career, but it would be far from his last.

In fact, there’s no player in major league history who has been traded more than Chavez. From his fourth trade when the Braves sent him to Kansas City until he rejoined the club eleven years later in 2021 on a minor league deal, King Jesse was claimed off waiver from the Royals to the Blue Jays in 2012, traded to the A’s from the Blue Jays in 2012, who would then trade him back to Toronto three years later. The Blue Jays would trade him to the Dodgers in 2016, and after choosing where to go via free agency a few times, the Rangers traded him to the Cubs in 2018.

After not playing in the major leagues in 2020, Chavez was released by the Angels in Spring Training in 2021 and would sign a minor league deal with the Braves in April. He played in Gwinnett before joining the big league club in June. In 33.2 innings, Chavez was outstanding, striking out 27.1% of batters faced and not allowing a single homer. His 2.14 ERA was actually higher than his 2.01 FIP. He was a key part of the Braves’ playoff bullpen, as he was their fifth-most dependable reliever on the World Series team and even started Game 4 of the NLCS as an opener.

Despite this success, the most he was able to muster was a minor league deal with the Cubs in 2022. He made the Opening Day roster, but would only pitch three games before getting traded for the ninth time when the Braves swapped Sean Newcomb for him.

In his third stint with the Braves, Chavez would return to his voodoo magic, having a 2.11 ERA in 38.1 innings. It looked like he would be a key contributor down the stretch, but he was traded in a last-minute deal that sent him to the Angels in exchange for Rasiel Iglesias.

It looked like Braves fans would have to wait until 2024 for a possible fourth stint, but Chavez’s stint with the Angels was surprisingly poor and the team cut him loose right before September, which meant he could sign with a team and be on their playoff roster. Unsurprisingly he and the Braves reunited and he finished out the season with the team.

Chavez’s time with Atlanta isn’t finished, as he’ll compete for a spot in Spring Training after signing a minor league deal in November. Hopefully, we’ll get to see more hats in 2024.

Atlanta Braves reunions honorable mentions

Unlike the hitters’ article, the Atlanta Braves reunions involving pitchers are far more common. So to close out, here are some that I didn’t think necessitated a whole write-up:

Kent Mercker (1989-1995; 2003)

Mike Remlinger (1999-2002; 2006)

Jesse Biddle (2018-2019; 2021)

Kyle Farnsworth (2005; 2010)

Arodys Vizcaíno (2011; 2015-2019)

Jim Johnson (2016; 2017)

Darren O’Day (2019-2020; 2022)