How Jake Odorizzi, Raisel Iglesias can help the Braves going forward

Houston Astros starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi (17) works against the Oakland Athletics in the first inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/John Hefti)

Credit: AP

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Houston Astros starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi (17) works against the Oakland Athletics in the first inning of a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Sept. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/John Hefti)

Credit: AP

NEW YORK – On Monday night, news leaked during Houston’s game that the Braves had acquired starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi. When Odorizzi went into the Astros clubhouse, his phone was blowing up.

Soon after, the Astros’ general manager told Odorizzi he indeed had been dealt. Immediately, Odorizzi’s mind began to race: All right, I need to do this, I need to do this. How do I take care of my family, get them packed up, get them secured?

“Just going down the mental checklist of everything,” Odorizzi said of his situation.

On Tuesday, minutes before the deadline, the Braves landed closer Raisel Iglesias, who already had gotten dressed to warm up before a game when the Angels told him they traded him. He cleaned up and packed up his stuff in the clubhouse, then went home and did the same with his family.

“Obviously coming off that recent signing (with the Angels), the trade definitely got me by surprise,” said Iglesias, who re-signed with the Angels before this season, through Braves interpreter Franco García. “It’s a four-year deal. To be honest, I guess I wasn’t really expecting to be traded at that point in the season.”

But Iglesias and Odorizzi are part of the same clubhouse now. The Braves acquired both to strengthen areas they believed already were strong. Iglesias gives the bullpen a legitimate closer – even if that’s Kenley Jansen’s job – and Odorizzi provides starting rotation depth in the form of a proven starter.

Entering Thursday’s series opener at Citi Field, the Braves ranked fifth in MLB with a 3.21 bullpen ERA this season. Not only do they possess quality relievers, but they feature depth and versatility. Iglesias will add to that.

A strong bullpen is a critical component of a contender. Great bullpens can keep wins from becoming losses and can even help an offense turn losses into wins if the relievers hold the opposing offense.

“Yeah, it’s a privilege to be able to join a great bullpen like this,” said Iglesias, who has 156 career saves. “This staff is really, really good. They have a lot of really good pitchers here. For me, it’s a privilege to be able to share that bullpen with Kenley (Jansen) and all of these guys. … I’m looking forward to pitching in front of Kenley, if that’s what it calls for, and setting it up for him to have success and for him to record the saves, if that’s what the situation comes for.”

Manager Brian Snitker feels like he has options. His relievers, he said, aren’t matchup guys. No, they can pitch in clean innings and be deployed in different ways. Plus, Snitker has been a fan of Iglesias since he pitched for the Reds before he went to the Angels.

“It’s always nice to get a closer for your bullpen,” Snitker said. “He’s very excited, it seems like, to be here, talking to him this afternoon. We’re excited to get him, I know that.

“I think he’d be an asset to any bullpen in baseball.”

Then there’s Odorizzi, who also has an immediate spot in the rotation. He gave the Braves six starters, but they can use all six because of doubleheaders on consecutive Saturdays. After the second of those doubleheaders, which comes Aug. 13 in Miami, the Braves will decide how to proceed.

Odorizzi has a 3.94 career ERA since his debut in 2012. He’s not simply a depth piece.

“It’s kind of nice with all these games coming up and needing that extra starter, to have a big-league starter to plug into that, that’s been on a World Series team and been an All-Star, and all that,” Snitker said. “It’s great to have that option.”

Max Fried and Kyle Wright have been excellent this season. Charlie Morton has pitched well, for the most part, since a rough start to the season. Spencer Strider has burst onto the scene. Ian Anderson has struggled to achieve consistency.

Overall, the Braves have a good rotation. But Odorizzi helps cover them in case of an injury or unforeseen circumstance.

“I’m just going to try to be me,” Odorizzi said. “I think that’s what makes a rotation good, is the uniqueness of the pitchers. Having a really good rotation is definitely a benefit, having some length to it is a big benefit. Come October, that’s what breeds good runs, is having that depth at the pitching staff position.”

Iglesias joined the team in New York on Thursday. Odorizzi, who reported to the club Wednesday, will make his first start during Saturday’s doubleheader at Citi Field.

Iglesias went from a seller to a contender. Odorizzi, on the other hand, is going from one contender to another. Both can help the Braves as they hope to repeat as World Series champions.

“Unfortunately, I don’t think we had the season that we would’ve liked to have had in Los Angeles over there, so to get traded to this team, a contender, is obviously really special and awesome,” Iglesias said. “Now it’s up to me to just get on these guys’ level and match their energy and everything that got going here. Hopefully, we can keep contending for the postseason, and hopefully we can repeat and go back to the World Series.”

Swanson wins award

The Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association (MLBPAA) on Thursday announced that shortstop Dansby Swanson is the Braves’ Heart and Hustle Award winner for this year. The award, a release said, “honors active players who demonstrate a passion for the game of baseball and best embody the values, spirit and traditions of the game.”

The award is voted on by former players. Voting is conducted before the All-Star break.

Each team has a winner, and the overall winner for the entire sport will be announced in November on MLB Network.

Good reports on Yates

Kirby Yates pitched in back-to-back games Tuesday and Wednesday, his first time doing so on his rehab assignments. He tossed two scoreless innings for Triple-A Gwinnett, one in each game.

Yates has allowed one earned run over 7-1/3 innings across multiple levels on his rehab assignment. It’s not crazy to be excited about this if you’re a Braves fan.

“I think you look more at pitchers’ results (on rehab assignments) than you do with position players, with the at-bats,” Snitker said. “I think you still look at – when the ball’s coming out of a guy’s hand, it’s either good or bad. I think you probably pay more attention to results from pitchers than you do position players, especially a reliever.”

Snitker doesn’t know when Yates will join the big club.

Soroka’s final step before a rehab assignment

Snitker said Mike Sorola soon will begin throwing in simulated games. That should be his final step before he begins a rehab assignment.

It seems like Soroka has not returned as soon as the Braves had hoped when they entered spring training. In July, he was hit in the knee with a comebacker, which slowed him a bit.

Albies ramping up baseball activities

Ozzie Albies played catch Wednesday.

Snitker said the second baseman is coming up on light baseball activities. The manager didn’t know when Albies would be set to begin a hitting progression, but Albies appears to be healing nicely.

Canó elects free agency

Robinson Canó, who was designated for assignment by the Braves on Monday, cleared waivers and was outrighted. He elected free agency, though.

Canó is hitting .150 with a .373 OPS over 100 at-bats in the big leagues this season.