NORTH PORT, Fla. – Multiple times over the offseason, Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos emphasized something.

As much as he worries about 2023 and 2024 – worrying, Anthopoulos says, is part of his job – he is concerned about the starting rotation in 2025 and beyond.

One day, the two starting pitching prospects who have emerged this spring could help stabilize the rotation. Yes, that could be a ways away, but Dylan Dodd and Jared Shuster have provided optimism and have looked like the organization’s next two promising up-and-comers.

Pitching in the same rotation in the future would excite them.

“For sure,” Dodd said after Saturday’s start. “Yeah, definitely exciting to think about. I love Jared. I mean, it’s been awesome playing with him over the past year and a half or so. That’d be cool.”

“Dylan’s a great teammate, a great player,” Shuster said after his start on Friday. “So yeah, definitely looking forward to having the chance to pitch and pitch with him.”

In a 5-1 win over the Phillies on Saturday at CoolToday Park, Dodd allowed one run – on a homer he served up to the game’s first batter – over 4 2/3 innings. It marked the first time he’d given up a run all spring. He allowed two hits and walked two batters, but struck out four. Dodd, who is in the middle of the fifth starter competition, didn’t fold.

Dodd this spring: One run on seven hits over 13 innings, with 15 strikeouts and two walks. (This doesn’t count his game against the Dominican Republic’s World Baseball Classic team, which was full of All-Stars. Dodd was charged with five runs in the third inning in this game, but still showed positive signs during the outing.)

Shuster this spring: One run on five hits over 12 2/3 innings, with 16 strikeouts and two walks.

The numbers probably couldn’t be more similar. They have matched one another every step of the way, and the Braves might face a tough decision in a week or so.

No one knows the future.

But can’t you at least be excited about Dodd and Shuster perhaps pitching in the same rotation in Atlanta in the future?

“Yeah, when you got two strike-throwers like that with that kind of stuff, absolutely,” manager Brian Snitker said. “And you look at the mound presence and everything. And they just keep pitching. They don’t shy away from anything, they use their stuff, they throw strikes. That’s the thing that impresses me about them is they get in the strike zone so good. They got pitches. They got multiple pitches that they can use, and they compete very well, both of them.”

Their numbers this spring – the strikeout-to-walk ratios – confirm that both lefties pound the zone. They don’t nibble.

“Yeah, I think that’s kind of what we both do,” Dodd said. “We fill it up. We don’t really beat ourselves. We don’t walk guys. We attack the zone and we make them beat us.”

There are tons of cautionary tales that advise us against becoming too excited during spring training. Neither Shuster nor Dodd has thrown a pitch at the big-league level. Due to the fact they’ve pitched in spring training, they haven’t faced teams’ full lineups. One or both could theoretically regress. Baseball is unpredictable and you must prepare for anything.

But Dodd and Shuster have earned this opportunity.

Barring injury, it seems only one would make the roster. But it’s important to focus on the big picture: The Braves will need a lot of starting pitchers this year.

“And that’s why if it’s opening day or if it’s two months from now – whatever it is – I’ll be happy with whatever decision they make and and continue to go day by day,” Dodd said.

Saturday, Dodd said, was a regular day. “I always get super nervous when I’m throwing,” he said. In the evening, he took the mound and showed everyone why the Braves believe in him enough to consider him for the opening-day roster.

When Dodd exited, the fans at CoolToday Park gave him a nice ovation.

“That was pretty cool,” said Dodd, who went to Southeast Missouri State. “In college, I never really had anything like that and not really in the minor leagues, either. So that was cool.”

Atlanta Braves center fielder Michael Harris II makes a leaping catch at the wall on a flyout by Philadelphia Phillies Brandon Marsh to end the third inning of a spring training baseball game in North Port, Fla., Saturday, March 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Credit: AP

icon to expand image

Credit: AP

Kyle Wright set for first spring game

Kyle Wright said he’ll make his Grapefruit League debut on Monday, when the Braves host the Rays in North Port.

Wright is, of course, excited for this one. He’s pitched in a simulated environment, but is looking forward to pitching in a spring game.

He’ll see a different jersey. He’ll hear the fans. He’ll have some extra adrenaline, even if the game won’t count.

Wright, who is a lock for the starting rotation if healthy, is behind this spring because he received a cortisone injection in his shoulder in January. Since then, it seems like his progression has gone smoothly, with Wright hitting all the necessary benchmarks.

For him, Monday should be the most exciting day yet.

Fried will start Sunday

Braves ace Max Fried will start Sunday’s game in Fort Myers versus the Twins.

If he stayed on the same schedule, this lines up Fried to start Atlanta’s March 30 opener in Washington on extra rest.

To this point, Fried hasn’t allowed a run over five innings in two Grapefruit League starts. When the Braves visited the Phillies in Clearwater earlier this week, Fried stayed back and pitched at CoolToday Park, which is why he only has two outings in official spring games.

Atlanta Braves Orlando Arcia is greeted in the dugout after his two-run homer in the sixth inning of a spring training baseball game against the Philadelphia Phillies in North Port, Fla., Saturday, March 18, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Credit: AP

icon to expand image

Credit: AP

Extras

-Snitker wanted to start Orlando Arcia to get the infielder some more time this spring. Arcia responded by going 2-for-3 with three RBIs, including a two-run homer.

-Lucas Luetge struck out the side in a clean inning.

-Joe Jiménez tossed a perfect inning, with one strikeout.

-Kirby Yates walked a man, but struck out three in a scoreless inning.

About the Author