Braves option RP Jesus Cruz, recall 1B Mike Ford

The Atlanta Braves optioned right-hander Jesus Cruz to Triple-A Gwinnett. Cruz, 27, had a 1.50 ERA over six appearances. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

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The Atlanta Braves optioned right-hander Jesus Cruz to Triple-A Gwinnett. Cruz, 27, had a 1.50 ERA over six appearances. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

MLB’s 13-pitcher limit came into effect this week, ending the previous 14-pitcher maximum applied for the earlier portion of the 2022 season with player health in mind. Teams could carry 13 pitchers at most beginning Monday.

The Braves reached compliance by optioning right-hander Jesus Cruz to Triple-A Gwinnett. Cruz, 27, had a 1.50 ERA over six appearances.

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The team also recalled first baseman Mike Ford, whom it acquired on waivers earlier this month. Ford is with his third organization this season. He hit .182/.357/.212 over 17 games (33 at-bats) with the Giants and Mariners before playing his last five games with Gwinnett. Ford, 29, gives the Braves a needed left-handed hitter off the bench.

MLB previously planned to end the 14-pitcher maximum May 30, but it extended the exception to June 20 citing players’ health. MLB had a truncated spring training for the second time in three years after a lockout threatened the start of this season.

Travis d’Arnaud’s value

Catcher Travis d’Arnaud hit his ninth homer Sunday in 44 games. He has a chance to beat his career-best mark of 16 bombs, achieved in 2017 and 2019. It’s been another standout campaign for the Braves’ backstop. He’s accrued the second-highest fWAR (1.5) of any catcher, trailing only the Yankees’ Jose Trevino (1.7).

The Braves signed d’Arnaud to a two-year, $16 million extension with a team option last summer. That agreement looks like a bargain for the team at this point, giving them far beyond league-average production at a modest price. D’Arnaud’s intangibles are also an important factor in his value, as he’s a team leader who’s unanimously praised by pitchers.

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Hot-hitting Dansby Swanson

Shortstop Dansby Swanson has perhaps been the Braves’ most consistent player. He’s played 17 games this month, collecting at least one hit in 15 of them. He has 18 multi-hit efforts in that span. Swanson is hitting .294 with nine homers, 37 RBIs and 41 runs scored this season. He’s stolen 11 bases. Swanson, a free-agent-to-be this winter, picked one heck of a time to warrant his first All-Star nod.

NL East race

Despite the Braves and Phillies surging, the Mets had a six-game cushion atop the National League East before the Braves played Monday. The Mets (45-24) have five more victories than the second-ranked NL club (Dodgers) while navigating through numerous injuries.

The Phillies (36-32) are 2 ½ games behind the Braves and are 14-4 in their last 18 contests, appearing revitalized after dismissing manager Joe Girardi. It’s fair to be skeptical whether the Phillies can keep pace with the other two clubs, but the division seems to be shaping into an entertaining race. With the expanded playoff field – there are now three wild cards – the NL East could easily have two playoff teams, if not three (less likely given the NL West).

Postseason odds

On a similar note, FanGraphs’ postseason odds give the Braves an 81.9% chance of a playoff berth. The Braves have a 27.5% chance of winning the division. The Mets, meanwhile, have a 96.4% chance at the postseason and are given 67.8% odds of winning the division. The Mets, Dodgers (92.8%) and Padres (88.7%) are the only NL teams with better postseason odds than the Braves.