Braves’ Reynaldo López pitches well in start against his former team

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Reynaldo Lopez throws against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Tuesday, April 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Reynaldo Lopez throws against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning of a baseball game in Chicago, Tuesday, April 2, 2024. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

CHICAGO – When the Nationals traded Reynaldo López to the White Sox in the offseason before the 2017 season, he was a starting pitcher. With Chicago, he became one of the sport’s better relievers.

His journey has come full circle.

On Tuesday, as López took the mound against his former team, he did so as a starter – again.

Asked before the game if facing the White Sox gave him any added motivation, López said this through interpreter Franco García:

“It’s like any other team. I just want to go out there and do the same thing I do, which is just leave everything out on the field. Just want to prepare like I do with any other team. Definitely being able to face this team for the first time, I’m excited.”

Tuesday’s game – made possibly by a forecast that cleared up in the afternoon – also began the Braves’ balancing act with López’s workload. He proved durable as a starter years ago. But as they do with anyone, they’ll try to keep López healthy and fresh.

“We’ll probably monitor innings early on with him a little bit, just to get him back into the swing of doing this,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said before the game. “He’ll pretty much tell us where he’s at, I would think, on every given day. Just watch him, see where he’s at.”

Might it mean López moves back to the bullpen? We’ll see.

For now, he looks good as a starter. On Tuesday, López spun six innings of one-run baseball, which gave him the longest start of anyone in the Braves’ rotation through the first turn. López, who struck out five batters and walked two, didn’t allow a hit until the fourth and didn’t surrender the run until the sixth.

Going forward, this is also good news: As the Braves look to monitor López – and all of their other starters, really – their deep bullpen will back their efforts.

Atlanta has a really good bullpen. It should allow the Braves to have the best of both worlds – healthy starters and wins. They shouldn’t have to pick between one or the other.

“It’s huge. Huge,” Snitker said of having the bullpen he does. “Especially having guys that can go one-plus (innings) – which we have a good mix of that. Because especially early on, you’re gonna do that. You probably look at all the teams throughout baseball, (and) you’re probably getting a lot of innings out of the bullpen, just because guys come out of spring training, they’re stretched out. But you know what, it’s different when they come in here. You look at stressful innings and stuff like that determining how far you let them go, but still, they’re not stretched out yet and it’s gonna take a while to get them like that.”

Jackson Stephens returns

It appears the Braves, according to their transactions log, have re-signed Jackson Stephens. They recently placed him on waivers in a move that cleared the way for Jesse Chavez to make the opening-day roster.

Stephens is listed as part of Triple-A Gwinnett’s roster. The righty could be an option to be a long guy out of Atlanta’s bullpen if the Braves ever need it.

The catching split

A few days ago, Snitker said he had the catching split in mind for the rest of the road trip. Without the injured Sean Murphy, Travis d’Arnaud and Chadwick Tromp are behind the plate.

D’Arnaud started on Saturday, Tromp on Sunday, d’Arnaud on Monday and …

Tromp earned Tuesday’s start.

So, thus far, it’s been one day on, one off for the catchers.

The changing forecast

The forecast once called for rain throughout Tuesday. It appeared the second game of the Braves’ series here would be impacted.

In the afternoon on Tuesday, it magically improved.

“We were driving here and all of the sudden, the blue skies came, the sun was out,” Snitker said. “I didn’t see outside my room all day. It was like I was in the middle of a cloud. And then we got here, and we can see blue skies and the sun was out. You never know.”

Wednesday’s forecast calls for rain and snow. At this point, it might be a bad idea to keep citing the forecast because the weather here this week has been better than expected.

But if Wednesday’s game is postponed, the Braves would probably push back Spencer Strider to Friday’s home opener against the Diamondbacks.

“I have a feeling we’re going to play,” Snitker said.