The Braves have found their fifth starter

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When healthy, the Braves have one of the best 1-4 in their rotation of any team in baseball. Max Fried finished second in the NL Cy Young race. Spencer Strider is one of the favorites to win the award this year. Kyle Wright led the league in wins last season, and while he struggled a bit last season, Charlie Morton is still a helluva pitcher. However, the fifth spot was an open competition coming into the season, and it wasn’t clear who would win the job… until now.

Monday night’s victory over the Reds was a little too close for comfort. The Braves bats were dormant for most of the night, but they were able to open up a 3-1 lead late in the game. Unfortunately, it didn’t last for long. The usual reliable A.J. Minter gave up two runs in the ninth, allowing the Reds to tie. But Sean Murphy put the game to bed with a two-run walk-off homer in extra innings. It was a big night for the Braves newest acquisition, who had three hits in the game. Hopefully, that will take some of the pressure off of him as he eases into his role with Atlanta.

But as great as Murphy was on Monday, the big winner of the night was Bryce Elder. The second-year pitcher didn’t even begin the season in Atlanta. He was optioned to Gwinnett in favor of Dylan Dodd and Jared Shuster but was called back up because of the injuries to Kyle Wright and Max Fried.

At this point, Dodd, Shuster, and Elder have all made two starts in the bigs this season, and it’s clear as day which belongs in the majors once Fried and Wright return to the Braves in the coming weeks.

Elder gave up some hits on Monday, but every time he found trouble, he worked his way out of it like a veteran. He struck out seven Reds batters and held them scoreless over 6.1 innings. This follows a similar performance in which he held the Cardinals scoreless over six innings. His line for the season now reads 12.1 innings, no runs, eight hits, and five walks.

This isn’t anything new for Elder, either. He finished 2022 on fire, boasting 1.65 ERA over his final five starts, which included a complete game shutout of the Nationals in September.

Elder is as ready as he’ll ever be to be a consistent major-league pitcher. There should be no questions about who should stay in Atlanta when Fried and Wright return to the rotation. And to think, the Braves could also welcome Mike Soroka back in the coming months. As shaky as their starting pitching has been to begin the year, they should be just fine over the course of the entire season.

Photo: John Adams/Icon Sportswire

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