The Atlanta Braves moved the pitching deck chairs around again this morning, recalling Dereck Rodriguez from Gwinnett and optioning Dylan Dodd.
Dodd had a non-decision start in Thursday’s game against the Phillies, allowing four runs on seven hits over five innings in a game the Braves won thanks to a pinch-hit single from Travis d’Arnaud.
The 24-year-old lefty hasn’t pitched badly in his four starts considering that two years ago he was splitting time between first base and pitching for South East Missouri State.
Since the Atlanta Braves claimed Rodriguez off waivers on May 15, Rodriguez’ appeared in two games for the Stripers, allowing one run over three innings, walking two, and striking out three.
He provides a fresh arm for an under-performing, overtaxed bullpen that’s thrown 187 1/3 innings (15th in MLB) at a 4.08 ERA (17th), is tied with the Guardians with a league-leading 12 blown saves, and converted only 52% of save situations - 27th in baseball and 14th in the NL.
Is Michael Soroka next?
Mark Bowman and others suggest that the recall of Rodriguez indicates that pining fans will get their wish because it’s an indication that Michael Soroka’s return is imminent.
The Atlanta Braves steadfastly refuse to recall Soroka; he hasn’t pitched every fifth day since 2019. His appearances for Gwinnett in 2022 and his first five in 2023 were at least seven days apart. Only his last three starts were on five days' rest.
In yesterday’s post for the Athletic, David O’Brian reported that Soroka gained 20-25 pounds of muscle during his rehab, and at 6’-5” 245 pounds and ‘'”. . . cuts a quite commanding presence on the mound.” He looks ready to dominate the league again, but the Braves are also aware that his 35+ innings at Gwinnett this year are the most he’s thrown since 2019, and no amount of side-work or simulated games is the same as pitching in a game that counts.
The Braves have good reason to protect Soroka, who could join Max Fried and Spencer as the leagues’ most dominant starting trio. But Soroka’s rehab from his second Achilles’ surgery included setbacks with a hamstring strain and a tired shoulder, and we’ve seen how a shoulder issue can short-circuit a season.
Atlanta Braves Option Monitor
The 2022-2027 CBA increased the level of difficulty to roster management by limiting the number of times a team may option a player to five without exposing the player to waivers.
While the limit applies to all players with option years remaining, it makes managing a pitching staff stressed by injuries particularly challenging. Dodd’s now been optioned back to Gwinnett three times since he broke camp with the Braves In March. Jared Shuster’s next return to Gwinnett will be his second of the year.
That’s a Wrap
Injuries to Atlanta Braves’ starters created a vacancy the club filled with Dodd, Shuster, and bullpen games. Aside from being difficult to win, bullpen games burn innings for key relievers the club will need down the stretch.
Fried will return in July, probably around the All-Star Break, and Strider will improve as the season goes on. Soroka’s likely return next week should ease the pressure on the bullpen and stabilize the rotation until then.