The Atlanta Braves squared off against the Tampa Bay Rays in a spring training game that had some intriguing storylines with implications for the Braves' 2023 bullpen.
Jesse Chavez started for the Atlanta Braves. Chavez is vying for a spot in the bullpen this season after posting a 2.72 ERA with the Braves last season over 47 appearances. Chavez went two innings with no runs and three strikeouts.
Kirby Yates made his return to action for the Braves in the third inning. After undergoing his second Tommy John surgery in March of 2021, Yates waited 724 days to make his return to the mound as an Atlanta Brave last season. Yates only appeared in nine games in what was a recovery year. The Braves knew what they were getting last year as they paid Yates $1,000,000 to complete his recovery. The goal is that Yates returns somewhere close to the form that made him one of the elite closer in the game as recently as 2019 when he led the league in saves.
Overall, Yates looked good in his first appearance of the spring. His fastball velocity was hitting 93 mph, right in line with what he's traditionally thrown. He had a pretty smooth inning of work with the exception being a solo homer from Josh Lowe. However, the splitter seemed to show signs of life that led Yates to his past success. Not a bad start to 2023 for Yates.
Nick Anderson faced his old team in his return. Looks great. If he can recapture his form he will be the "secret weapon" for the Braves in 2023. Prior to the injury, Anderson was one of the game's truly elite relievers. Anderson has the type of talent that, if recaptured, could vault him into elite closer status. There was a stretch where it was Josh Hader, Nick Anderson, and everyone else. Today, Anderson looked like Nick Anderson pitching one inning and allowing no runs, no walks, no hits, and recording two strikeouts.
If one of Yates or Anderson can pitch recapture their former glory, the Braves will be stacking one of the best bullpens in the league again. Should both of them recapture their old forms, it could be very scary for opposing teams as the Braves will have an endless supply of elite relief options.
Notes from the Announcing: Travis d'Arnaud has been Max Fried's exclusive catcher in recent years. It appears Murphy and d'Arnaud will catch all pitchers as they rotate since the Braves and their pitching staff have full confidence in both of the spectacular catching options in Murphy and TDA.
Justin Dean is making noise this spring. In the 8th inning, Justin Dean was on base with Adeiny Hechavarria at bat and Nick Dini behind the plate for the Rays. This made for some pretty interesting play-by-play with Dean, Adeiny, and Dini (Dean-ee) on the field.
Justin Dean and the Braves were dining on Dini behind the plate. Dean stole two bags to give him four this spring and Tolve swiped another one in the 8th. Hech ended up driving Dean in to tie the game. Dean would end up with a double, an RBI, two runs scored, and two stolen bases.
In the bottom of the ninth, Braden Shewmake, who's been hitting the ball hard without luck this spring, drove a one-out double to the wall. Cal Conley - of the pitch clock violation fame - came to the plate with the winning run in scoring position. If you just started watching baseball today, Conley set the world on fire by ending a game on a pitch clock violation for not looking deeply into the eyes of the pitcher in time. Conley grounded out but moved Shewmake to third in the process.
Conley gave way to the red-hot Justin Dean. Dean came to the plate sporting a .571 average and a chance to win the game. Alas, he struck out on three pitches, the game ended in a 3-3 tie, and nobody seemed to care all that much since it was just a spring training game.
Acuna, Riley, Olson, Harris II, d'Arnaud, and Albies combined for one hit (Riley). Olson did manage a walk and is currently carrying a .667 average.
The Braves will take on the Mets tomorrow afternoon at 1:10 EST. Watch on SNY or Listen to the Braves broadcast on WIFN 1340AM/103.7FM. The Mets will be sending Carlos Carrasco to the mount while the Braves are keeping it a surprise.