Braves reinstate AJ Smith-Shawver from injured list, add him to bullpen

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher AJ Smith-Shawver throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher AJ Smith-Shawver throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Chicago Cubs, Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Erin Hooley)

PHOENIX — In a surprise, the Braves called up AJ Smith-Shawver to join them in Arizona for Tuesday’s game against the Diamondbacks. The team reinstated him from the injured list.

Smith-Shawver was scheduled to pitch for Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday – which would’ve been his second rehab outing. He’s been working to return from a Grade 2 left oblique strain suffered during a start at Wrigley Field in May.

“It’s one of those things where we’re looking (for) anything we can do after we used so many guys (Monday),” Braves manager Brian Snitker said before Tuesday’s 6-2 win.

Smith-Shawver will be part of the Braves’ bullpen. But he might not pitch. The Braves just needed bullpen coverage after Monday’s thrilling, but lengthy, victory.

On Monday, the Braves won an 11-inning game. In it, Grant Holmes threw three innings, Raisel Iglesias tossed two – for the first time since 2021 – and Joe Jiménez hurled one. Holmes and Iglesias were down for Tuesday’s game, which meant the Braves needed a fresh arm.

Smith-Shawver didn’t pitch Tuesday. After Chris Sale went 5 1/3 innings, Jesse Chavez pitched 2 2/3 and A.J. Minter threw a scoreless ninth.

Smith-Shawver could be optioned Wednesday or Thursday if the Braves feel their bullpen is in a good enough spot.

Bryce Elder, who started Monday’s game, was optioned following that contest. Elder allowed three runs over five innings, but pitched better than that line indicated.

Smith-Shawver returned to the majors with only one rehab outing under his belt. On July 3, he allowed one run on one hit – a homer – over two innings for High-A Rome. He struck out four batters and didn’t walk any. If he goes unused by the Braves, they could option him and have him continue building up.

It could be considered good news that the Braves believe Smith-Shawver is healthy enough to put him on the active roster and use him in a game if necessary. He’s one of their depth starters who could be important down the stretch this season.

In his only big-league appearance of the season, Smith-Shawver threw 4-1/3 scoreless innings against the Cubs. This was a promising start for the 21-year-old righty, who looked better than he did a year ago.

Along with Smith-Shawver, Ian Anderson has pitched well in his rehab assignment. Both could become rotation options for the Braves after the All-Star break.

The Braves on Monday recalled Elder because they wanted to give Sale and the rest of the starters an extra day of rest. They’ve done this all season, and have prioritized Sale and Reynaldo López when doing so.

The shuffle continued Tuesday, when Smith-Shawver joined them after they sent down Elder.

Atlanta Braves pitcher AJ Smith-Shawver poses for a photograph during the team's photo day at CoolToday Park, Friday, Feb. 23, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

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Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Atlanta Braves pitcher Bryce Elder throws against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning of a baseball game Monday, July 8, 2024, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Darryl Webb)

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Extras

  • Michael Harris II (hamstring strain) took batting practice before Monday’s series opener. Harris is still on the injured list. Asked what boxes Harris must check before heading out on a rehab assignment, Snitker said: “The running part is the biggest thing. It’s good that he’s throwing and hitting everything, but he’s gotta get on the bases and stuff like that before we send him out.”
  • Ramón Laureano (oblique) still isn’t on the injured list. The Braves are playing a man down, though it likely won’t hurt them. On Tuesday, Laureano was seen in the clubhouse with a bat, but he’s not swinging. He’s only tracking pitches in the bullpen when pitchers throw their bullpen sessions.