Braves: AJ Smith-Shawver optioned to minor-league camp

MLB: JUN 09 Nationals at Braves

And then there were two… The battle for the final spot in the rotation got a little more clear today, as the Braves announced that AJ Smith-Shawver has been optioned to minor-league camp, along with catcher Sebastian Rivero, leaving 39 players left in major-league camp.

Like Hurston Waldrep, Smith-Shawver was incredibly impressive during Spring Training. He had some hiccups here and there, but the improvements in his stuff were noticeable. His fastball velocity was a couple of ticks higher, sitting in the high-90s, and he appeared much more confident in his changeup.

The move to start Smith-Shawver in Gwinnett was expected. Not because he didn’t leave a positive impression, but because a couple of arms with more experience are at the front of the line to start the season. The Braves have been stretching out Reynaldo Lopez to see what he can offer as a starter, and he’s been lights out every time he’s toed the rubber this Spring. Bryce Elder also had a fantastic outing his last time on the mound against the Red Sox, striking out six over 3.1 innings.

We will see who gets the nod to start the season. Elder still has options remaining, which will certainly play a factor. Lopez seems like a lock to begin the year in the rotation at this point, but the Braves could choose to ride with a six-man rotation to begin the season as they ease their starting pitchers into the swing of things. Regardless, it’s a good problem to have, especially for a pitching staff that has dealt with so many injuries over the last couple of seasons.

Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire

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