The Braves have a battle for the final spot in the rotation. They gave the first opportunity to the more consistent Drew Smyly. He’s been nothing special in his first season with the Braves, but you usually know what you’re going to get when he’s on the bump. Plus, Alex Anthopoulos also handed him $11 million this past offseason for just this year, which shouldn’t play a factor, but it usually does. However, after an abysmal outing against the Dodgers — one that featured four home runs in the first three innings — Smyly was relegated to the bullpen in favor of Touki Toussaint.
Toussaint was having a career-year in the majors before his spot was skipped in the rotation, recording a 3.60 ERA and allowing more than two earned runs just once in seven starts. The sample size wasn’t large, but it was enough to believe Toussaint could finally etch his name in the rotation for the foreseeable future… at least it looked like it at the time.
The extra rest hasn’t done Touki much good; in his two starts since returning to the rotation, he’s struggled. You can give him a pass for being roughed up by the Rockies at Coors Field. He’s far from the first person to get smacked around in the mountains, but Wednesday’s lackluster performance against the Nationals is much more worrisome.
Brian Snitker was forced to pull Toussaint after just three innings and 62 pitches. Fortunately, Jacob Webb saved his outing by getting out of a jam with two on and nobody out. Toussaint’s final line of 3 innings, 1 hit, 2 runs (1 earned), 4 walks, and 3 strikeouts doesn’t look awful, but his actual performance was much more discouraging. He lacked control, and against a better lineup than the Nationals, things likely would have turned out much worse.
It probably won’t take long for the Braves decide who will start next week. Brian Snitker will inform us in the coming days. My guess would have been Smyly, but he made an appearance last night and it didn’t go particularly well. He pitched the eighth inning with the Braves trailing by a run, and the Nats were able to stretch their lead to two off of three hits. So… I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Kyle Muller in five days.
The young southpaw has been more effective than both Toussaint and Smyly this season at the major-league level, and he’s been dominating ever since he was sent back down to Gwinnett. With 28 players now on the roster and a seemingly open spot in the rotation, bringing Muller up again makes a lot of sense.