Atlanta Braves news: it’s “next man up” time for pitchers

A live shot of the Atlanta Braves pitching situation out behind Truist Park. Mandatory Credit: Ana Ramirez/Austin American-Statesman via USA TODAY NETWORK
A live shot of the Atlanta Braves pitching situation out behind Truist Park. Mandatory Credit: Ana Ramirez/Austin American-Statesman via USA TODAY NETWORK /
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The injuries are not just contagious, but now they are being self-inflicted as the Atlanta Braves are going to have to scramble to field pitching for the rest of the year.

It’s a body blow… a gut punch… to hear that Atlanta Braves starter Huascar Ynoa failed to heed the advice of Crash Davis and used his right hand to try and take out a solid object on Sunday afternoon.

Davis, in Bull Durham, chided Nuke LaLoosh late in the movie about not using his pitching hand when fighting a drunk (Davis).  That advice applies to benches as well, it seems.

That brings the Atlanta Braves to the same kind of situation they faced last year — cobbling together a rotation out of piece parts with no expectation of consistent performance thanks to track records that are now “iffy” at best.

Last year, it was Cole Hamels that we had hoped might be back to pitch some meaningful innings late in the year.  This year it’s Mike Soroka.  In both cases, that hope might be based on blind optimism:

Let’s do the math here:  “a few weeks” means that he’s shut down until the leg fully heals from this most recent procedure.  That probably brings us to mid-June.

At that point, he might start walking, stretching, perhaps working out in the gym a bit to keep his upper body going.  Let’s call that another 2 weeks… so now it’s the end of June.

At that point, Soroka might be able to start throwing… long toss, light jogging… the kinds of things you do before you actually start a true throwing program.   Let’s do that for a couple of weeks and now we’re roughly at the All-Star break.

If all is going well, then things can ramp up — 4-6 weeks of running, throwing, then pitching, with the accompanying workouts intended to build him up both in physical stamina and throwing stamina.

It’s another Spring Training program for him.  That takes us through the month of August.

At that point?  Maybe a couple of Gwinnett starts to put Soroka into game competition… and then the majors by mid-September.

Is that optimistic?  Could that even happen?  Again, each step in the process has to be completed perfectly with no setbacks before moving onto the next phase… and we certainly know that there have been two such setbacks already that have us at this point now.

So in this analogy to 2020, Soroka embodies the Cole Hamels figure in that we might see him in September… and only then would we see if there’s one inning, two innings, or anything at all that can prevent another lost year for him.

As you can see, virtually any new setback would pretty much run him out of time for 2021.

Atlanta Braves youthful depth

So with Soroka and Ynoa down for quite a while (and Ynoa himself will probably be 10-12 weeks on the shelf), the team will be forced to rely on the arms they have at the AAA level.

The differences from 2020 are these:

  • Last year the team only had 60 games to cover.  This year we now have 122 games remaining.
  • This was already a season in which no team wants to stress their starters with too many innings.  Now the Braves will need more from multiple sources that pitched so little in 2020.
  • In 2020, Atlanta had one of the top 2 leading offensive attacks, which more-or-less saved the pitching staff on multiple occasions.  Right now, it appears they’re having trouble hitting balls off a tee.
  • Trades?  No… not nearly possible right now, and even finding an impact pitcher at the end of July is going to be difficult at best.  But you can expect some more waiver-wire claims in the faint hope of finding a diamond amongst pieces of coal.

So it’s literally “next man up” time.  But Atlanta has already used 20 different pitchers at the major league level in these first 40 games.

That means you’ll likely see some of these guys get chances to start one or more games in the near future:

  • Tucker Davidson (penciled in for Tuesday’s game against the Mets)
  • Bryse Wilson
  • Kyle Wright
  • Tanner Roark (likely meant for relief, but…)
  • Sean Newcomb (a less likely possibility)
  • Kyle Muller or Jasseel De La Cruz  (if the team gets even more desperate for a consistent performer)

There’s also the very real chance of multiple “bullpen games”.

The message was delivered today when Jesse Biddle was released:  if you don’t make hitters earn their way on base… you’re not going to pitch for this organization.

The same standard will apply to these guys getting chances to start:  if they pitch well, they will earn their next appearance.  If not, then they will pick up their ticket back to Gwinnett after the game.

Don't hit that.... dark. Next

Regardless, something has to change quickly for this team to get things moving in the right direction.  That change must be “better performance”… and the offense needs to help out their beleaguered pitching staff.  Immediately.