Lefty relievers impress in Braves’ late push against the Pirates

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It was quite the breezy day in Bradenton, Florida on Wednesday afternoon, and there’s no questioning which way it was blowing.

You know that is likely the case when Mike Soroka gives up a home run. Soroka allowed just 0.7 HR/9 last season, the best mark in baseball. However, he did give up a deep ball to Cole Tucker in the third inning. This would be the first of seven homers from both teams in what led to a 9-7 final score in Atlanta’s favor. The good news is that other than the homer, Soroka was lights out, and his offspeed stuff is already looking super crisp. Brian Snitker pulled him after 50 pitches, likely his cap for the afternoon.

Peter O’Brien, a former top prospect in the Yankees’ system that is known for his power, showed why the Braves are fond of him with two homers in the game. His chances of making the Opening Day roster are slim to none, but he could potentially serve as some quality depth on the farm.

If O’Brien is kept in the minors, he will likely be teammates with Mr. Gwinnett himself, Sean Kazmar Jr. Kaz has been with the team for seven years now, and he had a big day on Wednesday as well. He had an RBI single, and also hit in two runs on a homer that would give the Braves the lead in the top of the ninth. This was following a Greyson Jenista solo shot that had tied the game.

Home runs stole the show today, but the most significant takeaways came from two lefty relievers, Chris Rusin and Phil Pfeifer. Rusin was incredible, going for two innings of scoreless relief and racking up five strikeouts in the process. He has had a rough couple of years but is not too far removed from a 2017 season where he posted a 2.65 ERA in 60 appearances… with Coors Field being his home ballpark. We all know how volatile relief pitching can be, and if he continues to throw like this, he could push Grant Dayton for the final spot in the bullpen.

But Rusin is not alone in the pursuit of the last bullpen spot, which may be in a lefty relievers’ favor due to the lack of incumbent southpaws. Phil Pfeifer looked equally impressive to close out the game. He did give up two hits, but one was on a terrible miscommunication on a fly ball. Pfeifer went on to strike out the side, flashing his unbelievable curveball. This is a guy Anthopoulos brought over when he came from the Dodgers, so he has had his eye on him for a while now. If Pfeifer can put things together, he could push for this spot as well.

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