Braves surprisingly send top pitching prospect to IL after brilliant start

Atlanta lost their top pitching prospect to injury despite having a fantastic season debut.
Atlanta Braves v Chicago Cubs
Atlanta Braves v Chicago Cubs / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

The Atlanta Braves shocked fans on Friday afternoon with the news that they have lost their top pitching prospect to the injured list.

AJ Smith-Shawver made a spot start for the Braves on Thursday at Wrigley Field and looked really good on the mound. It was a blustery afternoon in Chicago but AJSS did a great job keeping the Cubs offense at bay.

His fastball velocity sat between 97 and 99 mph during his outing and the changeup and curveball looked much more improved from last season. It wasn't a perfect start by any means but he showed he would be a suitable arm for the back end of the rotation.

AJ pitched 4.1 scoreless innings, allowing three hits, two walks, and four strikeouts on 87 pitches (55 strikes). An excellent season debut for the young righty and it felt like he pitched well enough to earn a second start with the team.

After the game, Smith-Shawver stated, "I definitely feel like I can get the job done here. I am confident in my stuff. It’s just about getting opportunities and trying to make the most of them."

You could tell he felt good out on the mound and looked like he belonged there. Atlanta's bullpen came in and kept the Cubs off the board which secured the team's eighth shutout of the season. That is the most shutouts in Major League Baseball and Atlanta's pitching has a 3.26 ERA which is fourth-best in baseball.

Braves lose AJ Smith-Shawver to IL after brilliant season debut

However, the Braves shockingly announced that AJ Smith-Shawver has been placed on the 15-day IL with a strained left oblique muscle. He didn't show any indication that anything was bothering him when he exited the game or after the game.

Atlanta recalled LHP Ray Kerr and announced he would start the series opener against the Pirates on Friday. Brian Snitker had mentioned they wanted to have a look at Kerr starting games so they will get that opportunity sooner than expected.

It stinks for AJSS to have such an encouraging outing and immediately have to shut things down. However, as Braves insider Mark Bowman pointed out, it may be good for him to have a layoff since he has never thrown more than 88 pitches in a season.

This is tough for the Braves because it looked like they may have found a solution to their fifth starter spot that has been so unstable so far. The pitching depth for the Braves has been tested heavily and they'll have to rely on it a bit more.

Darius Vines, Allan Winans, and Bryce Elder all appear to be the most desirable options at the MiLB level. However, we will see how things go on Friday with Ray Kerr and see if he can provide the team with a reliable starter.

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