With a week left until the Braves break camp and head back North to Atlanta, the club seems to have more questions than answers when it comes to the pitching staff. Julio Teheran is expected to be named Opening Day starter for the sixth consecutive year later on today, but who follows him and what the bullpen looks like is still very much up in the air. Coming into spring training, AJ Minter and Darren O’Day looked to be two guys that could see higher leverage situations. But Minter has been slowed with shoulder soreness following a minor fender bender two weeks ago, and Darren O’Day dealing with forearm soreness is still listed as “no throw.” On Sunday afternoon, Brian Snitker acknowledged that neither would be ready to start the regular season.
So, this leads to the big question of where the Braves go from here? I feel confident in saying Newcomb, Gausman and Wright will start the season in the rotation. The club doesn’t need a fifth starter until April 7th, which means someone will need to start the season in the Minors, make a start or two and be ready to join the rotation at that point. Bryse Wilson, Touki Toussaint and Max Fried have all been impressive in Grapefruit League play. Fried is the only one from that group that had success from the bullpen a year ago, which would likely give him an inside track to make the roster as a long man from the pen. That would leave it up to either Toussaint or Wilson to continue to be stretched out as a starter as camp wraps up, with the other likely providing more length from the bullpen.
As of now, the only relievers I feel confident in saying are locks for the bullpen are Arodys Vizcaino, Shane Carle, Jonny Venters, Dan Winkler and Sam Freeman. As for who makes up the other four spots, you’re looking at guys like Wes Parsons, Jesse Biddle, Luke Jackson and potentially two starters competing for those spots. As for Chad Sobotka, his spring numbers have not been promising and it appears as though he will start the season with Triple-A. There’s also the option the team could look for help elsewhere, but as of now, it does not appear as though a reunion with Craig Kimbrel is in the cards.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet.