Braves starting pitching concerns continue to pile up

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Milwaukee hasn’t done much good to the Braves pitching staff. In the first game of the series, Max Fried was forced to exit after five scoreless innings because of a blister on his hand. This is an issue he’s dealt with his entire career, but it’s the first time it has affected him this season. Then, rookie Bryse Wilson was shelled in game two for four earned runs over four innings – once again looking like he isn’t quite ready for major league baseball.

Atlanta’s rotation was already thin, but after this week, it is even more depleted. There are only two pitchers that inspire any confidence – Dallas Keuchel and Mike Soroka – and it’s becoming more and more apparent that starting pitching will be the top priority before the July 31st deadline.

We know Max Fried will miss at least one turn. Bryse Wilson’s fate remains up in the air, but it seems unlikely he will stay in Atlanta. If he does go back to Gwinnett, the Braves will be looking at two new faces in the rotation come next weak, but the options are not uplifting.

Kevin Gausman is poised to return to Atlanta after back-to-back stellar starts in the minors. He struck out ten in seven innings with the Stripers last night, lining him up to take Bryse Wilson’s spot on Sunday. According to Kelsey Wingert, he’s been working on adding a breaking ball and a cutter to his usual two-pitch repertoire since returning from the IL. That is necessary if he wants to improve upon his gaudy 6.21 ERA, but even if he has success in the second half, he shouldn’t be trusted in a potential playoff series.

The Braves will likely call up one of their other rising prospects to take Fried’s spot. Kyle Wright, who has been much better of late, could receive his first start in the majors since mid-April. Kolby Allard is another name to watch for, as he’s been outstanding for Gwinnett and has yet to receive a crack at the bigs this year. But like Gausman, both are more short-term solutions rather than long-term ones.

Atlanta’s internal glimmer of hope for their rotation currently lies in Gwinnett as well. Mike Foltynewicz has had three starts for the Stripers since being demoted but has looked less impressive each time out. In his first appearance, he went 7.2 innings and allowed two earned runs. Since, he’s only gone ten innings combined, giving up seventeen hits and six earned runs. Folty is also suffering from a bone spur in his elbow. It’s a longshot that he ever returns to his 2018 form this season.

Even Max Fried, when healthy, has been far from consistent on the mound. And who knows how much these blister problems will affect him the rest of the year. He’s touting a 4.08 ERA and has had just as many quality starts as poor ones since the calendar turned to June. Fried’s probably a guy best served as a weapon out of the bullpen during the postseason – as he was last year – rather than a starter.

And while Julio Teheran’s been fantastic for the majority of the season, he’s still Julio Teheran. It’s difficult to justify him starting any game in October.

There has been a lot of talk about what is the biggest concern for the Braves leading up to the trade deadline – starting pitching or the bullpen. For the longest time, I thought it was the bullpen. In part, because I thought the Braves could sort out some of their rotation problems internally. That hasn’t happened. Instead, the issues have continued to pile up. And on the other side of things, the Braves have been able to come up with a makeshift bullpen – one that leads the National League in ERA.

Atlanta will have to add relief help if they want to win the World Series, but the priority now is their starting rotation. At the very least, the Braves need a reliable third guy they can turn to come October.

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