Normally, the retaining of a utility man would not capture that much attention. Charlie Culberson returning to the Atlanta Braves is another story.
Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported on Friday that the Braves had signed Culberson to a minor league deal. As Culberson is capable of playing virtually anywhere on the diamond, he is the perfect bench piece. However, it is his conversion to the mound that makes his return to Atlanta noteworthy.
Position players convert to the mound on a somewhat frequent basis. The likes of Tim Wakefield, Kenley Jansen, and Trevor Hoffman were all position players before their successful transition. However, the vast majority of these switches to the mound occur in the minor leagues. While players such as Ben Chapman, Anthony Gose, and Jimmie Foxx became pitchers late in their careers, it is a much rarer occurrence.
Culberson has a chance to find success in a bullpen role. He has been clocked as high as 94 MPH with his fastball, a pitch that sits around 90 MPH and has solid sinking action. His slider has decent depth. Culberson has allowed ten baserunners and just one run in his 7.1 innings, a respectable showing for a position player on the mound. The potential is there for Culberson to become a valuable piece of the Braves’ bullpen.
These conversions do not always work. The Padres had attempted to turn Christian Bethancourt into a two-way player before scrapping that idea. And yet, it is worth taking a low-risk chance. The 34-year-old Culberson may well have a second act in his major league career, becoming a respectable reliever who can also play wherever needed.