Braves Minor League Recap: Spencer Schwellenbach makes pro debut, Exposito goes wild
By Eric Cole
We finally got a (mostly) full slate of Atlanta Braves minor league games with only the Mississippi Braves yet to get started. While it was tough sledding for Gwinnett, Rome got a boost from Ignacio "Nacho" Alvarez and Augusta got a huge night from EJ Exposito to hold on for their first win of the season.
Box Score - 4/6
It was a tough night for the Gwinnett offense, but Gwinnett got a nice performance out of one of their minor league free agent signings, Domingo Robles. Robles doesn't have eye-popping stuff per se, but he throws a bunch of strikes, gets plenty of soft contact, and struck out seven in four innings of work.
The Stripers only had two hits on the evening, but Vaughn Grissom had one of them as he continues his hot start to the season. He won't maintain a 1.260 OPS the whole time, but it is a lot of fun to watch while he is doing it. Notably, Braden Shewmake hasn't played at all since 4/4, so one wonders if he is already dinged up.
Ian Mejia got the start for Rome in their season opener and he was quite effective as he gave up just one run in five innings of work. He wasn't missing a ton of bats, but he was locating the ball well especially low in the zone.
The Rome offense only scored three runs in the game, but Nacho Alvarez was responsible for all of them. A groundout from Nacho scored Kevin Kilpatrick in the bottom of the first and in the bottom of the fifth, he connected on a two-run double. He also walked and stole a base in the game. It is hard to do much better than that in your first game of the season.
Box Score - 4/6
While the Augusta offense was the reason Augusta won on Thursday, the biggest story was that we finally got to see Spencer Schwellenbach make his professional debut as he had to undergo Tommy John surgery shortly after being drafted in 2021. He threw almost two innings (42 pitches) and got his first career strikeout, although he did walk a couple of guys as well. In that first look, he gets a lot of arm-side run on his pitches that he is pretty rusty in commanding (which is understandable) and he seems to deliver his fastball with better intent when pitching out of the stretch, but this was an incredibly small sample.
There were several strong offensive performances in the Augusta lineup on Thursday with Tyler Collins getting three hits and two stolen bases and both Ethan Workinger and Jeremy Celedonio hitting absolute tank shots. However, the best performer from the game was easily EJ Exposito who went 3-4 with a double, home run, and 5 RBI. This Augusta roster is really fun.