680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – To say the Braves need a starter to get deep in tonight’s Home Opener would be the understatement of the day. Through the first turn of the rotation, the Atlanta starting pitchers are right in the middle of the pack in the Majors as far as innings pitched (17.2 to be exact). While that doesn’t seem too bad on the surface, keep in mind that 11 of those 17.2 came in the first two games of the season as Mike Soroka outdueled Jacob deGrom with six scoreless en route to a no decision on Opening Day, while Max Fried followed on Saturday with five innings pitched in his season debut. After that, it’s been a much different story. Sean Newcomb and Mike Foltynewicz, the third and fourth starters to open the year couldn’t get through four innings. And keep in mind, Newcomb had a 7-1 lead to work with at the time. As far as Foltynewicz is concerned, he also logged just 3.1 innings on Monday and was later designated for assignment. And last night, Kyle Wright cruised through the first two innings, but the Rays offense made him pay for not only a leadoff walk, but two more free passes with two outs in the inning. Wright wasn’t able to escape the third.
Entering the season, the rotation was the area of biggest concern for most fans. But, the thought of having veteran Cole Hamels and Spring Training standout Felix Hernandez possibly in the mix, most folks felt much better with how things lined up following Soroka and Fried. It’s only five days. Believe me, I’m not ready to give up on Newcomb. And I love Wright’s stuff. You saw it on display early on last night. He’s a really smart young man and will figure out what he needs to do to get back on track. As of now, it appears as though the spot vacated by Foltynewicz will either go to Touki Toussaint or veteran righty Jhyouls Chacin. And while trading for a starter might be at the top of every fans wish list, it’s going to be more challenging than ever in this shortened season to find teams willing to make a deal, especially with more than half the teams in the Big Leagues making the Postseason. What this first week underscores is the importance of having depth in the starting pitching department. And when it comes to the Braves, that depth has taken a major hit over the last couple months with three starters (Folty, Hamels & Felix) all out of the picture.
Kevin McAlpin has covered the Braves since 2012 for @680TheFan and the @BravesRadioNet.