The Atlanta Braves made news when they opened the season with youngsters Kyle Wright, Bryse Wilson, and Max Fried all slated to begin in the starting rotation. Injuries to Kevin Gausman and Mike Foltynewicz allowed the team to delay some tough decisions about the roles of their pitching prospects this season.
Gausman returned to the team late last week and Wilson was sent to Triple-A Gwinnett in a corresponding move. Foltynewicz made his second rehab start this week and is working his way back from elbow soreness. He threw 61 pitches in 3.2 innings for the Gwinnett Stripers, working around a 40-minute rain delay. The right-hander was happy with his velocity and appears close to rejoining the major league squad. While the Braves will not give a timetable for his return to the majors, most expect it to be this weekend or early next week. His return will mean another pitcher loses their spot in the rotation. Who deserves to stay in the big league rotation?
After the rain delay, @Folty25 was on 🔥, putting down 4 Bulls in a row!
Final Line | 3.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 SO, 0 HR pic.twitter.com/Jwwmf8F6ja
— Gwinnett Stripers (@GoStripers) April 9, 2019
Max Fried Has Earned His Spot
Along with Gausman and Wright, the current rotation features Sean Newcomb, Julio Teheran, and Fried. While the Braves may wish to shuttle some of their young starters back and forth from Gwinnett to give the rotation additional rest, they will need to settle on a primary five-man rotation at some point.
A season after registering 12 wins, Newcomb is pitching well to start 2019. In two no-decision starts, the lefty boasts a stingy 1.64 ERA. His starting spot is safe for the foreseeable future.
Teheran was the Opening Day starter, and despite some early season struggles is likely to remain in the rotation. Despite adding muscle this off-season he has not regained velocity on his fastball. This may be due to the decision to pitch exclusively from the stretch this season. Barring several poor outings, the veteran appears locked into a starting role.
Who gets the nod?
That leaves Wright and Fried as the two young pitchers likely battling for the remaining spot in the starting rotation. Wright has been a little shaky, going 0-1 with a 4.35 ERA in two starts thus far. He is slated to get the start on Friday when the Braves face the division rival New York Mets. A strong outing will make the decision tougher, but Fried’s success almost assures that Wright will be sent to the minors or see action out of the bullpen.
Fried on Fire
Based on his early season performances, Fried seems destined for a regular spot in the rotation. The left-hander is 2-0 on the season and has yet to allow an earned run. In addition to his success as a starter, Fried has turned in two brief scoreless relief appearances.
On Tuesday, Fried registered his second win of the season against the Colorado Rockies in Coors Field. There was some concern that Fried’s breaking pitches would be less effective in the higher altitude. Instead, he struck out four and limited the Rockies to five hits in six scoreless innings.
Fried has seen relief work in previous years too, but his best outings as a pro have been as a starter. In 11 career starts, the former first-round pick is 4-3 with a 2.25 ERA. Opponents are hitting a paltry .234 with only two home runs in 217 plate appearances in those starts.
The lanky left-hander with a sharp twelve-to-six curveball is drawing comparisons to Cole Hamels not only for his build and delivery but also for his poise and pitching prowess. While the Braves rotation will be a work in progress all season, as the team figures out ways to juggle all their young talent, there is little debate that Fried has earned a permanent role as a starting pitcher.
Embed from Getty Images