Resop warming to new role as starter

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips
 Converted Gwinnett Braves starter Chris Resop is improving with each outing. 

Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips Converted Gwinnett Braves starter Chris Resop is improving with each outing. 

LAWRENCEVILLE — Chris Resop snickers when he talks about his two starts for the Richmond Braves in 2008.

"It was just random things," Resop said. "Like two-inning starts. It (was) nothing on a consistent basis. I have never done it in my career."

The two-inning spot appearances two seasons ago don't compare to what Resop now experiences every five days. Or the days in between.

For the first time in his life, the G-Braves' right-hander is a regular starting pitcher. But after the first start, it didn't appear he would stick.

Against Charlotte, Resop lasted just 32/3 innings, gave up five hits, one run and walked three. He did strike out four as he labored through his first loss as a starter.

Five days later, everything changed. Three and 2/3 innings grew to six.

His hits dropped to just two, runs to zero, walks one and strikeouts more than doubled to 10.

The G-Braves lost the game 3-1 but found a winner on the mound.

Resop enters tonight's start against Pawtucket with a 2-1 record and a 1.40 ERA in five starts with the G-Braves. He has pitched at least five innings in every start since the first and picked up wins in his final two outings.

"I am starting to adjust now," Resop said. "We are a month into the season and I am starting to get into that routine of starting and what my body needs and what my arm needs to recover and to get back and get ready to get on the mound again in four days, five days. I am just going out there and trying to throw strikes and do the best I can."

Resop's growth comes not just every outing, but on the days in between. The dramatic transformation from Game 1 to Game 2 and beyond only came with the effort and growth on his off days.

"Every time out he has learned a little bit more about what he can do," said G-Braves' pitching coach Derek Botelho. "If you are a reliever, you are out there for one inning, three outs, sometimes, and maybe not even that. Your pitches go from anywhere from 12 to 15 to 40-something.

"His arm is really bouncing back, he is really durable. It's kind of incredible with his arm that he has never started before. For him to have an arm like that and not start is kind of an oddity."

A career closer, his mid-90s fastball is still Resop's best pitch.

But his changeup and curveball have improved and he just started work on a slider.

The Florida native began his career with the Marlins organization in 2001. He was traded to the Los Angeles Angels in 2006 and the Braves claimed him off waivers in 2007. He had short stints in the big leagues in 2005 and 2006 with the Marlins, in 2007 with the Angels and started 2008 with the Braves.

While with the Braves, he became the first pitcher to enter the game, move to another position and return to pitch since 1993. Braves manager Bobby Cox moved Resop to left field for one batter in the 10th inning against Pittsburgh.

A month later, Resop was designated to Class AAA Richmond and, by July, he was released and pitching for the Hanshin Tigers in Japan.

As a reliever in the majors, Resop is 3-3 with a 5.61 ERA in 57 appearances.

Through 20 starts in one-plus year in Japan, Resop grew as a pitcher and laid a foundation for his new role as a starter.

"I learned how to be a better pitcher (in Japan)," Resop said. "As opposed to just throwing fastballs and getting guys out. I learned how to pitch, to throw in, to throw away, to throw breaking balls and sliders. I am learning how to be a complete pitcher instead of just a thrower, and I did learn that over there.

"(Japanese batters) will foul you off all day if you are just throwing fastballs, they'll just keep fouling you off. You have to learn to make an adjustment. You can't just rely on just using fastballs."

Resop returned to the Braves this offseason, signing a one-year minor-league contract and his transition to starter began in spring training.

"He has an outstanding arm," Botelho said. "We've taken (the move to starter) and run with it and he's done an outstanding job."

In his most recent start, Resop struggled in the first inning but battled out. He proceeded to pitch six quality innings, striking out eight.

"The other night he started out a little bit slow, but then he started getting into it a little more and kicking in a little," Botelho said. "His pitches improved the more he was out there."

The pitches mirror his pitching. The more starts he makes, the more progress he makes. Like all minor leaguers, the goal is to stick in the bigs and Resop sees starting as a chance to get the call-up for good.

"No matter what position I am playing, that is everybody's goal, to get to the big leagues," Resop said. "It's all out of my control. I can only control what I do each and every day. It's what I stay focused on.

"I am having fun with this. I like it. It is something new for me. I am getting used to it and I am really enjoying it."