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Braves’ Sims caps breakout with eight straight wins

Lucas Sims’ first full season in the minors couldn’t have ended much better.

The Atlanta Braves’ 2012 first-round draft choice won his last eight starts for Class A Rome and finished among the South Atlantic League leaders in numerous pitching categories.

Sims, who didn’t turn 19 until May 10, was second in the 14-team league in ERA (2.62), WHIP (1.11), tied for second in victories with a 12-4 record and fourth with 134 strikeouts in 116 2/3 innings. Opponents hit just .203 against him. Not bad for someone who started the season in the bullpen and took a while to find his comfort zone as one of the younger players in the league. Along the way, Sims moved up the MLB.com prospect rankings. He is rated the Braves’ top prospect and is No. 93 in the Top 100.

“We’re very happy with his progress,” Atlanta general manager Frank Wren said.

And with good reason.

Sims was 11-3 with a 2.49 ERA in 18 starts and had 113 strikeouts to 34 walks in 94 innings.

The Braves took it slow with Sims early, conserving his innings by have him pitch out of the bullpen.

With the way the right-hander finished, the strategy obviously worked.

Sims, the 21st overall pick in the 2012 draft, pitched five scoreless innings at Charleston in his final start of the season, striking out seven and walking none. “We were very patient with him early in the season, making sure he got well-grounded,” Wren said.

Sims, who was 8-1 with a 1.19 ERA as a senior when Brookwood reached the state championship series against Parkview, received a bonus of $1.65 million to pass up a scholarship to Clemson and sign with his hometown team.

“I enjoy having the opportunity to go to the ballpark every day and do what I love for a living,” Sims said. “It’s something I don’t take for granted.” The Braves limited Sims to 34 innings in the Gulf Coast and Appalachian rookie leagues last year, going 2-4 with a 3.71 ERA in 11 games.

This year with Rome, Sims got to go all out the last three months of the season. “My goal is to make progress every time I go out there,” he said. “I’ve improved my command. That’s been the biggest thing I’ve accomplished.”