The Atlanta Braves have been bit by the injury bug a lot so far this season, and it has hit their starting rotation the most.
With big injuries to Max Fried (left forearm strain) and Kyle Wright (right shoulder strain), a lot of the weight from the starting rotation has moved to the bullpen. Atlanta’s bullpen has done really well this year. However, when the big injuries to the starting rotation took place, it was like it changed something in the bullpen… and not for the better.
Obviously with the two big injuries a lot of pressure was placed on the bullpen, but the Braves bullpen normally doesn’t crack under pressure. But we saw in the last two series Atlanta played, against the Boston Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, that the bullpen could not hold a lead. In three out of four of those games, the bullpen blew a 2-run lead late in the games, which didn’t give enough time for the Braves offense to come back.
A.J. Minter, who in the past has done really well for the Braves, has not been off to a good start in the bullpen. In fact, I’d say he’s struggled the most out of all the Braves bullpen pitchers this season. He is 2-5 on the season and has an ERA of 8.05 over 20 games. He’s only given up 6 walks over those 20 games, but it seems like almost everyone he faces gets a hit off of him. Minter started the season as the Braves closer while Raisel Iglesias was on the IL, and now that Iglesias is back Minter has resumed his role of pitching in the 7th or 8th inning.
Hopefully now that Iglesias is back as closer, it will take some of the added pressure off of A.J. Minter and he will return to being the great pitcher we saw in 2022.
The Atlanta Braves are currently running off of a three-man starting pitching rotation with Spencer Strider, Charlie Morton, and Bryce Elder. Ideally you want a five-man starting rotation, but for the Braves that is easier said than done. Because of the two big injuries to the starting rotation, the Braves have been doing a lot of bullpen games. Jared Shuster is set to pitch tonight (Tuesday, May 16th), and the Braves coaching staff called up Dylan Dodd for a game and then sent him back down to Triple-A Gwinnett. If Shuster does well, and Dodd continues to pitch like he has been, the Braves could easily place them in the rotation to fill in those two missing slots while Fried and Wright are on the IL.
Another thing to keep an eye on regarding the Atlanta Braves starting rotation is Michael Soroka. Soroka started the 2023 season in Gwinnett for the Braves – and with good reason. After coming off tearing his ACL twice in a span of almost two years, and straining his hamstring, doubts of whether Soroka would ever pitch again began to fill all of Braves Country’s minds. But Soroka did not give up. He hasn’t pitched a Major League game since August of 2020, but he is not letting that stop him. He has been working hard in Triple-A, and I’m sure he’s itching to pitch in a MLB game again.
The Braves training staff is playing his rehab assignment very carefully. I’m sure they want him to not only be comfortable on the mound, but for his body to be in good condition so that when he finally gets to pitch again he shouldn’t have any physical problems.
Soroka’s ERA in Gwinnett is 5.47 over 24 innings. He has had some scoreless starts, but he has also had some blowout games. With that being said, I also think the Braves are going to allow him to sort out his starts and become more consistent before they bring him back up to the Majors to resume his career.
Every Major League team will go through injury-plagued stretches during some seasons. Although the Atlanta Braves have been through a lot lately, I’m glad these inconveniences are happening during the beginning of the season rather than in late August/September when postseason baseball is right around the corner.
I strongly believe the Braves are going to be the team to beat this year, and I’m excited to see where this exciting season will take them!