Braves’ bullpen showing depth and versatility

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

DENVER — Following the Braves’ win Saturday night, Collin McHugh, one of the contributors, brought up a good point about the club’s bullpen.

“You forget you got a 15-year veteran down there like (Darren) O’Day,” McHugh said. “You don’t think about him necessarily coming in in those big situations this season. But dude’s as capable as anybody in baseball about getting outs on both sides of the plate in any condition, any inning.”

And yet, the 39-year-old O’Day, who has pitched in the majors since 2008, entered Saturday’s tie game in the ninth inning. Needing to send the game to extras, manager Brian Snitker went to O’Day, who, as McHugh said, didn’t appear to be a prime candidate to pitch in those spots.

The fact he did says something about Atlanta’s bullpen.

“We’re deep,” McHugh said. “We can all pitch.”

Heading into Sunday’s series finale in Colorado, the Braves’ bullpen ranked fourth in baseball with a 3.10 ERA. The unit has tallied the second-most strikeouts (235), the eighth-fewest hits (159) and the third-fewest homers (13) of any in the sport.

They’ve done this without Luke Jackson (Tommy John surgery). They’ve survived an injury to Tyler Matzek, who struggled before being placed on the injured list with left shoulder inflammation. And recently, closer Kenley Jansen had blown three saves in six opportunities.

The Braves’ bullpen has overcome all of it.

As of Sunday, the Braves’ relievers had logged 200 ⅓ frames, which ranks No. 16 in the majors for most innings thrown by a bullpen. Being in the middle of the pack is good news because it means the Braves aren’t overworking their relievers.

“You don’t want to go out there and feel like you have to pitch three days in a row or try to push through some soreness,” A.J. Minter said. “Guys are capable behind you of going out there, executing just as well. It’s not trying to be the hero, especially this early in the season. It’s all about being healthy and just getting to the finish line, see where we are.”

Spencer Strider’s process

Starting pitchers always talk about leaving any outing, good or bad, behind them and moving forward. It’s important to take the information they need from a start, then look ahead to the next time they’ll toe the rubber.

What is Spencer Strider’s process like?

“It’s multi-step, for sure,” said Strider, who allowed only a run but walked five over four innings Saturday. “I already jotted down everything, all the curse words I wanted to say to myself, on paper. They’re immortalized now. And then, just subjective thoughts coming out of the game, when the mind’s still fresh, and I’ll go back and watch it, talk about it. That’s the nice thing about starting is you get plenty of time to prep for the next one.”

Strider said he got away from his fastball in the start. He tried to work in his slider, which he didn’t use much in Arizona. But he couldn’t consistently locate the slider.

In Saturday’s outing, Strider threw 53 fastballs, 30 sliders and four change-ups.

He said he doesn’t believe it will require a huge adjustment to fix the command issues.

“I’m confident my command is better than what I showed (Saturday night),” Strider said. “My tempo’s been good. I think just trusting myself, trusting my stuff, and not trying to get too complicated. Sort of steer things back into what I’m good at and just trust in the next outing.”

Michael Harris finding a groove

Michael Harris had a great first week in the bigs.

He collected his first hits and his first RBIs. He made multiple incredible plays in center field. And he finished the week on a five-game hitting streak.

In five games from May 31 until Sunday, he was 8-for-21 with two doubles, three RBIs, three runs scored and a walk.

The elevation’s effects

Denver, appropriately named the Mile High City for its elevation, presents challenges for athletes.

In Thursday’s series opener at Coors Field, Jesús Cruz learned a valuable lesson.

“I thought Cruz was going to die when he came in,” Snitker said Friday. “He ran in (from the bullpen on Thursday). I guess the guys told him, ‘Dude, you can’t sprint in from there.’ He goes, ‘I learned something today.’ I came in afterward and I go, ‘You OK?’ He goes, ‘Yeah, I’m great!’ It’s like, ‘You didn’t look it.’”

But the elevation’s effects are no joke. Snitker knows this.

“I’m on the treadmill and kind of noticing it there,” the manager said. “It’s real.”

Braves claim Robertson off waivers

The Braves on Sunday claimed infielder Kramer Robertson off waivers from St. Louis. They optioned him to Triple A.

To make room for him, they transferred outfielder Eddie Rosario to the 60-day injured list. That move is strictly procedural and doesn’t change Rosario’s timeline.

Robertson has one big-league at-bat to his name. He was drafted by the Cardinals in the fourth round in 2017.

A fun fact about him: His mother is legendary women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey, who is part of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.