The Braves’ exhibition season is under way, beginning with Sunday’s 9-7 loss against the Rays in Port Charlotte, Fla. Kyle Wright started the game, going 1-1-/3 innings, allowing three runs on four hits along with a walk and strikeout.
Wright pitched a scoreless first frame before surrendering consecutive one-out doubles in the second. A wild pitch and single later, Wright departed the game in a 2-1 hole. Austin Meadows’ two-run homer scored the stranded runner.
“I felt like I was a little amped up,” Wright said. “I got a bunch of guys to two strikes. Really wanted to put guys away. I got a little eager. ... There was a little extra adrenaline, being the first one. It felt good to get back out there and pitch.”
Wright, 25, made eight starts last season, posting a 5.21 ERA. But he finished the regular season with three consecutive solid outings before pitching six scoreless innings against the Marlins in the playoffs. He looked like a different pitcher during the final portion of the year.
Wright’s season ended on a sour note, however. He was obliterated in his final outing, charged seven runs while recording just two outs against the Dodgers in Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. Still, his overall work late in the season is reason for optimism.
“I was able to really give myself a good base of what I needed to do and what I could build off of,” Wright said, later adding his emphasis this spring is consistently pounding the strike zone. “Whereas previous seasons, I feel like I didn’t quite have that. Too many inconsistencies. Excluding the last (start), just getting that good base, I feel like I was able to have a good idea of what to work on.”
If Mike Soroka, recovering from a torn Achilles, starts the season on the injured list, Wright is a leading candidate to take the open rotation spot. Even if he starts in Triple-A Gwinnett, he’s crucial depth for the Braves over a 162-game season.
But Wright, a fifth-overall pick and graduated top-pitching prospect, is aspiring to be more than depth. If he takes another step forward this season, perhaps he finally secures a rotation spot for 2022. The Braves would be thrilled with such outcome.
“I liked the stuff,” manager Brian Snitker said of Wright. “It was good. He threw some good breaking balls at times, popped his fastball. It was OK. He lost a couple early in that first inning but he came back and threw the ball well. Overall, I thought the stuff was good.”
Notes from Sunday:
- Sean Newcomb is somewhat a forgotten man in the Braves’ pitching mix after a disappointing 2020. He was among those who followed Wright.
Newcomb gave up a homer to the first hitter he faced, Mike Brosseau. He walked two of the next three Rays before ending the inning with his second strikeout. The frame concluded after just the second out, which managers have the power to do under MLB’s 2021 spring training rules.
“Newk’s stuff was good,” Snitker said. “You feel like Newk had limited exposure with us last year, this is his first time back in the competitive arena in a long time. That breaking ball has gotten better. Popped his fastball really good. Again, it’s getting them back out there.”
-Designated hitter Bryce Ball knocked in the Braves’ first run of spring. Alex Jackson and Travis Demeritte drew consecutive walks off Hunter Strickland to open the second inning and Ball singled to center.
Ball, a 22-year-old first baseman, is one of the organization’s most intriguing minor leaguers because of his physical stature (listed 6-foot-6, 240 pounds) and power prowess. He impressed last spring, and this one is off to a nice start.
Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@
Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@
- Reliever Carl Edwards Jr. pitched a 1-2-3 fourth, capped by striking out Wander Franco, baseball’s top prospect. It was the Braves’ only clean inning. Edwards, a non-roster invitee, is competing for a spot in the Braves’ bullpen. He was an electric reliever before injuries derailed him in recent seasons, so he provides a moderate amount of upside if healthy.
“Carl Edwards was really, really good,” Snitker said. If Edwards maintains Sunday’s excellence, he’ll play himself into the Braves’ opening-day bullpen.
- Two prospect highlights: Catcher Shea Langeliers, highly regarded for his defense, threw out Vidal Brujan on a steal attempt in the fifth. Outfielder Drew Waters drew a walk, stole second and scored on Trey Harris’ sacrifice fly in the fifth.
“Trey Harris, that kid can hit, man,” Snitker said. “It doesn’t matter the velocity or anything. When he gets in that batter’s box, he expects to hit. This kid knows he can hit. You watch him during the workouts, he’s always working on his jumps in the outfield, shagging balls. He’s an impressive young man.”
- Shortstop Dansby Swanson and Austin Riley were the only two regulars who started Sunday. Swanson went 1-for-2 with a walk and RBI. Riley went 2-for-3 with an RBI. Snitker expects other regulars to play Monday before most of them appear in the CoolToday Park home opener Tuesday.
- Huascar Ynoa will start Monday for the Braves against the Red Sox. Boston will start veteran Garrett Richards. The first pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. and the game will be televised on MLB Network.
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