Entering yesterday, the performances from the starting rotation, which was probably the biggest question mark for the Braves coming into the season, were a mixed bag. Max Fried and Ian Anderson produced forgetful outings, but Charlie Morton and Kyle Wright looked in mid-season form. From a glass half full perspective, at least Wright was spectacular. The Braves know what they’re going to get out of Fried, Morton, and Anderson at this point. They are rock solid, but they still need an answer for the fifth spot in their rotation, which they definitely did not find on Monday night.
Brian Snitker turned to Huascar Ynoa, Spencer Strider, and Tucker Davidson yesterday — all three of whom are competing for a spot in the rotation. Ynoa started the game and turned in one of his worst outings at the major-league level. His command was all over the place, and while he was able to consistently get out of trouble early on, the Nationals eventually broke through for five runs. Of the three that pitched Monday, Strider was easily the most effective, allowing just one run through 3.1 innings. However, it did take him 71 pitches to do so. Davidson followed him up by surrendering five earned runs over 2.2 innings.
It may sound crazy based on what we’ve seen in the first five games of the season, but I firmly believe the Braves rotation can be a strength for them in 2022. I’m not worried about Fried or Anderson one bit; they’ll bounce back sooner rather than later. I’m very high on both Morton and Wright, and I think the Braves have a lot of tantalizing options to fill out the group.
Ynoa looked abysmal yesterday, but he’s a live arm that’s had success at the major-league level. There’s a ton to like about Strider, who pitched well last night in the longest outing of his career. And Davidson might like to forget about his first appearance of 2022 forever, but I walked away impressed with his improved velocity. This was a young man that was having a lot of success when his fastball sat at an average of 93.0 last season, and yesterday, he was consistently hitting the strike zone with 97 mph. Velocity isn’t everything, but that’s a significant jump that could pay substantial dividends for Davidson down the road.
The Braves also have a few more options waiting for their opportunity in AAA, and a couple could be getting their first opportunity soon. Brian Snitker said two arms will be called up to start Tuesday’s game. Bryce Elder seems like a prime candidate, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Touki Toussaint either, who performed splendidly in his first outing of the season for the Stripers. Kyle Muller has also looked fantastic for Gwinnett, but he recently pitched, so he isn’t a candidate to be called up today. Still, expect to see him soon. Through two starts for the Stripers, Muller has a 1.93 ERA and has only walked two batters through 9.2 innings.
Shaky starts after a shortened Spring Training are to be expected, especially from a group of arms who lack major-league experience. The Braves opted to play a numbers game in 2022, hoping that a couple of their young pitchers could rise to the occasion. It might take a little while to figure out, but eventually, this rotation should begin to look like an advantage rather than something holding the team back.
Photo: David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire
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