Braves: The competition for the final spot in the rotation has thinned significantly

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The Braves had their second intrasquad scrimmage today, as Mike Foltynewicz took on Sean Newcomb. Folty was perfect, looking a lot like the pitcher that ended last season. Newcomb scuffled a bit, giving up a couple of long dingers to Travis d’Arnaud and William Contreras. Still, outside of that, Brian Snitker was satisfied, considering it was his first start in over three months.

Newcomb is competing for the final rotation spot, so typically, this start might be a bit more significant. However, since Felix Hernandez opted out, and Cole Hamels might not be ready to handle a full load for a while, the competition has thinned out tremendously. It now almost looks certain that Kyle Wright and Sean Newcomb will both begin the year in the starting rotation, and an unlikely candidate, like Touki Toussaint, may even get a chance early in the season.

The Braves are right to ease Hamels into things. The 36-year-old veteran has had injury concerns in the past, and Atlanta needs to have him at the end of the season way more than they need him at the beginning. Plus, while this 60-game schedule will be a sprint rather than a marathon, injuries should be treated even more cautiously. One setback could cost Hamels the entire season, since its only two months long.

Losing Hernandez, along with the uncertainty surrounding Hamels, puts the Braves in a much worse position than they were a month ago, when their starting pitching depth was viewed as a strength. However, they are still in an excellent spot to tackle the first month — even if Hamels isn’t 100% ready — because of all the arms they have.



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