Braves right-hander Touki Toussaint searches for consistency

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Touki Toussaint appears to be in the mix for one of the open rotation spots.

But will he remain consistent enough to fill it? That’s been the issue with the right-hander.

“Touki’s been fighting (inconsistency) for as long as he’s been here, mechanics and things like that,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s just consistency. The way he can spin a ball, he’s got a live arm, the ball moves, it’s just about consistency, really.”

The inconsistency is illustrated by the swings of Toussaint’s 2021 season.

In his first big-league action last season, Toussaint allowed one run in each of his first two starts … then surrendered seven in his next outing.

Then he gave up seven earned runs total in his next four starts … before finishing his season by allowing four earned runs in two of his final three starts.

“Just trying to fill the zone,” Toussaint said of what he’s working on this spring. “Honestly, it’s been my biggest issue. Throw as many strikes as I can, work out the little kinks that I didn’t do in the offseason, I guess. Get around a lot of other eyes to see if they see anything or if I can change this, change that, and get more consistent with things.”

In 2021, Toussaint’s walk rate dropped but so did his strikeout rate. His strikeout-to-walk-ratio, or how many strikeouts he earns for every walk he issues, was 2.18.

Toussaint on Monday allowed a run on four hits over two innings in a 5-0 loss to the Red Sox at JetBlue Park. He struck out two batters and walked another.

“Overall, pretty good,” Snitker said. “Stuff was good. That’s just something he’s just got to keep fighting and working with. We know when he gets it right and he gets things going, he can do a really good job.”

Toussaint has shown flashes, but he has a 5.46 ERA over four big-league seasons. The Braves need him to be more reliable.

Toussaint is one pitcher fighting for the open rotation spots. It seems three are taken by Charlie Morton, Max Fried and Ian Anderson. When discussing the other two, Snitker mentioned Toussaint, Tucker Davidson (two earned runs over two innings Monday), Huascar Ynoa, Kyle Muller and Kyle Wright as internal candidates.

Toussaint said he doesn’t think about the rotation competition but mentioned that last year’s success gives him confidence.

“I feel like from Day 1, I knew I could pitch in the big leagues,” he said. “It’s a matter of just going out there and doing it, and having that success puts that extra (feeling of), ‘All right, you can really do this.’”

Rotation strategy

The Braves open the season with 14 games in 14 days. Due to this, they won’t be able to skip a rotation spot. They’ll need all five starters.

Or six?

Snitker mentioned a six-man rotation as an option to begin the season. He also said the team could use an opener to temporarily fill one of those rotation spots.

Of an opener, the manager said: “That’s always a possibility. We have some candidates to do that in the right situations also. We showed last year that we’re going to probably use that in getting through the whole thing. We’re definitely open to that.”

One candidate could be right-hander Collin McHugh, whom the Braves recently signed to be part of their bullpen. Last season with the Rays, McHugh tallied five three-inning outings and pitched at least two innings 21 times.

Charlie Morton throws again

Morton threw on Monday, Snitker said. It seems Morton is in a good place.

“To me, it’s kind of surpassed where I kind of thought he would be when he came in and is doing better than I actually thought he would,” Snitker said.

Max Fried set for spring debut

Fried on Tuesday will make his first start of this spring training. He’ll face the Twins.

Last season, Fried pitched to a 3.04 ERA over 28 starts. Fried won a Gold Glove and the Silver Slugger Award. He was a key part of the Braves’ World Series run.

Camp cuts

The Braves on Sunday evening announced they optioned right-hander William Woods to Triple-A. They also reassigned right-handers Jasseel De La Cruz, Darius Vines, Bryce Elder and Victor Vodnik to minor league camp.

The Braves on Monday optioned righties Freddy Tarnok and Alan Rangel to Triple-A. Atlanta now has 54 players in big league camp.