A couple of offseasons ago, the Braves took a gamble on Kirby Yates, who was coming off Tommy John surgery and wasn’t able to pitch for most of the 2022 campaign. The hope is that it would pay off in 2023, and after a shaky start to the season, Yates is looking like the dominant pitcher he was just a few years ago.
In Wednesday afternoon’s series sweep of the Twins, Yates was called upon in arguably the most pivotal spot of the game. He relieved Kolby Allard in the fifth inning with two runners on and two out, delivering with a strikeout to end the frame. Yates then came back out for the sixth inning, punching out two more without allowing a baserunner.
A lot of Yates’ early season concerns stemmed from his control. Over his first 20 innings, he was walking nearly a batter an inning. Despite that, Yates still owned a respectable 3.54 ERA, but it’s fair to say that success was not going to be sustainable if he continued to allow free passes at such an alarming rate.
However, since June 9th, Yates has tossed 11 innings without allowing a walk. He’s also struck out 18 and allowed just two runs. That’s much more like the pitcher he was back in 2019, when he was the best closer in baseball for the Padres, posting a 1.19 ERA, 1.9 BB/9, and 15.0 K/9.
Now, it’s probably foolish to believe Yates will ever be the same guy he was at his peak, but that’s not what the Braves are asking of him. He’s currently being used as a middle reliever, a role that he’s thriving in, but don’t be shocked if he starts to get more cracks in high leverage situations. Yates is beginning to look like a weapon again, and if that’s the case, the Braves may not need to make a move at the trade deadline for a reliever after all.
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