The news wasn’t exactly surprising. Eric O’Flaherty is headed to the Bay Area after inking a 2-year, $7M contract with the Oakland Athletic People. There was some increasing hope back in December that O’Flaherty would return to Atlanta, but those hopes stagnated over the last few weeks with reporters who follow the Braves commenting that the Braves and O’Flaherty weren’t even talking anymore.
O’Flaherty was the kind of pickup that when your team makes it, you don’t even remember it by the time spring training comes. Acquired off waivers from the Mariners on November 20th of 2008, there was little thought that O’Flaherty would help anchor the Braves bullpen over the next few years. A former sixth round pick out of Walla Walla High School, he signed quickly with the local Mariners. He began as a starter, but quickly transitioned to the bullpen and got to the majors in 2006. Oh, to be left-handed.
He was rushed to the bigs by an organization that likes to speed guys through the minors and the results weren’t very promising. He struck out just six of the first 57 batters he faced. He did give up 18 hits, including two homers, and was charged with nine runs in just 11 innings. But good news – only five were earned!
Nevertheless, O’Flaherty was back in the M’s bullpen for 2007, spending all but the first couple of weeks in Seattle. While the numbers were definitely better, he was still not pitching well enough to earn a spot in the O’Ventbrel trio. His ERA did look a lot worse than his FIP (4.47 to 3.55), though his K/9 would rank worse than O’Flaherty’s four full seasons and his BB/9 would have ranked worse than three of those seasons. Still, all in all, it was a successful year. He began the following season with the Mariners, but pitched poorly and was banished to the minors within a couple of weeks. His season came to a close in early June due to back injuries and the Mariners gave up on him.
Cue the Braves and four wonderful years, including a 0.98 ERA in 73.2 ING during 2011. He joined with Jonny Venters to terrorize left-hand batters and plenty of right-handed ones as well. One of his frequent victims was Ryan Howard, who went 2-for-18 against O’Flaherty with a double, two walks, and eight K’s. Chasey Utley was 4-for-20 while Jimmy Rollins was 1-for-15. Recently retired Todd Helton managed a hit in ten plate appearances, which was one more hit Jayson Werth could get in eight trips to the plate.
O’Flaherty warming up was a depressing sight for opposing hitters. But entering his final year of arbitration before last season, expectations were high that 2013 would be it for O’Flaherty. His torn UCL that ended his 2013 season early brought talk of return trip and a chance to “make good,” but that was not to be. The pending return of Venters and ascension of Luis Avilan also limited a chance for a return trip. Now that he is definitely gone, We’ll miss EOF and good luck with the A’s. If he suffers no setbacks, O’Flaherty should be ready when the A’s come to miss Turner Field August 15-17. I bet Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman are hoping to not see you, though.