Reynaldo Lopez could be the Braves X-Factor

MLB: APR 02 Braves at White Sox

The Braves have said they won’t release any new information regarding Spencer Strider until later in the week, but the overwhelming feeling is that he will miss the rest of the season, severely handicapping a rotation that was bolstered significantly this offseason.

I guess, that’s the good news. Losing arguably the best pitcher in baseball would be detrimental to just about every rotation, but Alex Anthopoulos placed such an emphasis on depth this offseason, that the Braves just might be able to skate by with what they have.

Chris Sale has come as advertised in his first two starts, but it’s actually been Reynaldo Lopez who has been the most reliable pitcher in the Braves rotation through two turns.

The former reliever is starting again for the first time in three years, and he was brilliant again last night, tossing six innings of scoreless baseball against the Mets. This comes after a Braves debut in which he also went six innings and allowed just one run against the Chicago White Sox, his former team.

Two appearances and two quality starts for Lopez to begin his Atlanta Braves career. The hard-throwing right-hander inked a three-year, $30 million contract this past offseason, and most believed he would bolster a bullpen that also needed some help. But the Braves had a different vision for Lopez, one that may pay some major dividends for the team this season with Spencer Strider sidelined.

Immediately after signing Lopez, it was reported the Braves would attempt to stretch him out as a starter again. A peculiar decision because Lopez was so effective as a reliever but wasn’t as a starter. However, the newest member of the Braves says he’s learned a lot over the last few years, which has helped him in this new transition.

“Thinking back, I thought to myself, ‘If I would’ve known these things as a starter, it would’ve been a different story,’” Lopez said, via Justin Toscano of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Lopez’s velocity has fallen considerably this year compared to years past, which isn’t atypical considering he’s throwing about 8-10 times as many pitchers per outing. But what he’s lost in velocity, he’s made up in his sequencing. Lopez is still primarily a fastball/slider pitcher, but he’s mixed in a curveball more often, and it’s the timing of when he’s using each one of his offerings that has kept hitters off balance.

The plan with Reynaldo Lopez was always a fluid one. The Braves wanted to see if he could start during Spring Training and give him a shot to begin the season in the rotation if he looked the part. I highly doubt they originally thought it would be something that lasted all year, hoping one of the younger arms could step up in his place, allowing Lopez to move back to the bullpen,

But with Spencer Strider going down, a wrench has been thrown into all of that, and it’s very possible Reynaldo Lopez could be the Braves rotation’s most significant factor in helping them right the ship.

Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire

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