Braves notes: Meet newest Brave Joey Wendle; updates on Riley and Murphy

PITTSBURGH — On Friday afternoon, Joey Wendle received a text from Zack Short, his old teammate who is his teammate again. And a half-hour later, Wendle saw Short on the bus from the team hotel to PNC Park.

A few months ago, Wendle and Short shared a clubhouse in Port St. Lucie, Florida, as they both battled to make the Mets’ opening-day roster. They both did.

Now, they are together again.

“It’s pretty wild,” Wendle said before Friday’s series opener versus the Pirates. “I think I remember telling him in spring training (for) New York that I thought there was gonna be a way for us to coexist on the same team. I didn’t know that he would do it on two teams in the same year.”

The Braves on Friday signed Wendle to a major-league deal. They will pay Wendle, a utility infielder, a prorated amount of the $740,000 minimum salary for however long he’s in the majors with them. The Mets recently released Wendle, so they’ll pay the rest of his $2 million guaranteed salary minus the amount the Braves end up paying Wendle.

On Monday, New York officially released Wendle. He said the Braves contacted him pretty soon after that. He knew they were interested.

Now, Wendle is playing for a team that has won six consecutive National League East titles.

“I’ve played against this team for so long, seen what great teams they’ve had,” Wendle said. “Usually when a team has a perennial winner, the organization is doing something right. Obviously, you see the talent on the field. Kind of what happens behind the scenes, I’m looking forward to getting acclimated to all that kind of stuff as well.”

To clear a spot on the 26-man roster for Wendle, the Braves optioned Luke Williams to Triple-A Gwinnett. Wendle and Short will handle third base duties until Austin Riley (intercostal inflammation) returns. Riley is unlikely to play in Pittsburgh this weekend.

Wendle is a left-handed hitter, which makes him a nice complement to the right-handed Short. He’s a good base runner. He’s known as a great clubhouse guy.

“Seen him for a long time now, and just a versatile, professional guy,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I know he’s a high-quality guy, as far as makeup and everything, (just) from talking to people. He plays all over the diamond.”

Wendle debuted in 2016 for Oakland, which is where he met Matt Olson. He played for Tampa Bay from 2018 through 2021, including appearing in the World Series, and then spent two years with Miami before this season.

Wendle was an All-Star for the Rays in 2021, but has struggled since then. From the start of 2022 until Friday, he was batting .237 with a .604 OPS over 680 at-bats, including going 8-for-36 for the Mets before they released him.

He once was pretty much an everyday player. Now, he’s a bench guy.

“I definitely have a little bit more of a different role now,” Wendle said. “I had a poor season last year. I feel like I definitely have a lot more to offer, I feel like there’s still a lot on in the tank. I’m looking forward to being part of this team and getting to know the staff, and things like that.”

No one knows how often he’ll be used, especially with Riley due back soon.

But …

“Whatever is called upon, I’ll be ready for it,” Wendle said. “There’s not a lot that I can promise, but I’ll give you everything I’ve got – I can promise that.”

After New York designated Wendle for assignment May 15, he went home to his family. He spent time with his wife and their three sons, ages 6, 4 and one and a half. He was a full-time dad as he waited for a call.

“You never know what’s gonna happen,” Wendle said. “I felt like I could still play, I feel like I could still contribute to a major-league team.”

Riley gets closer

As previously mentioned, Riley likely won’t return until the team gets home Monday. He’s not a guarantee to be in the lineup that day, but it seems he won’t play in Pittsburgh.

Riley took batting practice on the field and looked healthy while doing so. This was a big step for Riley, who began his hitting progression a few days ago in Chicago.

This question has been asked a lot by fans: Why wouldn’t the Braves not place Riley on the injured list?

As we’ve written, they haven’t needed the roster spot.

“We just haven’t needed it yet,” Snitker said. “I think if we would’ve needed the spot, we probably would’ve used it. We don’t need it.”

Think back to the opening-day roster. Riley and Luis Guillorme were both on it. Forrest Wall, an outfielder, made the team as the last bench guy.

Well, now Wall is in Gwinnett, and the Braves have Short and Wendle, with Riley still on the roster because he hasn’t been put on the injured list. They don’t need anyone else.

Snitker said it best here:

“We could’ve brought somebody up here to sit. (That), in essence, is what it would’ve been. It would’ve been a runner that we would’ve used maybe twice in that time.”

Murphy is close, too

On Thursday, Sean Murphy homered for the second time in two rehab games. This was a great sign as he looks to return from a left oblique strain.

Snitker said Murphy – who was scheduled to catch nine innings Friday – could be “very close” to joining the Braves.

After Friday, the Braves will evaluate how Murphy feels.

“But if he catches nine innings and he feels good with the bat like that, then we’ll kind of be on the verge of bringing him back, too, I imagine,” Snitker said. “It’d be kind of nice if we get all these guys back.”

On Friday, Murphy did indeed catch all nine innings of Gwinnett’s loss to Jacksonville. He went 2-for-5 with an RBI.

In three rehab games, he’s 5-for-14 with two homers and four RBIs.