Needing a fresh arm, Braves call up prospect Freddy Tarnok

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Around midnight Monday night, Freddy Tarnok received a call from Triple-A Gwinnett manager Matt Tuiasosopo. The skipper told Tarnok he wouldn’t be seeing him at the ballpark Tuesday, and sounded a bit sad.

“What the hell is going on?” Tarnok said he wondered. “What the heck?”

“You’re actually going to the big leagues,” Tuiasosopo told Tarnok.

Of that moment, Tarnok said: “I was kind of speechless.”

The Braves are in the middle of playing 14 games in 13 days, with nine more games, including Tuesday, before their next day off. What that means: tons of roster moves.

In an effort to get a fresh arm to Atlanta, the Braves called up Tarnok, their No. 5 prospect on MLB Pipeline. His first appearance will be his MLB debut.

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Tarnok began the season at Double-A Mississippi before the organization promoted him to Triple-A Gwinnett. He posted a 4.31 ERA over 15 starts in Double-A, and has registered a 2.03 ERA through five starts and 26-2/3 innings in Triple-A.

Tarnok has a fastball that sits 94-97 mph. He also features a good curveball. Across both levels this season, he has 10.18 strikeouts per nine innings and a 1.19 WHIP. Opposing batters have hit .216 against Tarnok.

“Just overall pitching a little better, throwing more strikes,” Tarnok said when asked what he’s done so well at Triple-A. “Pitches are all working like how I want them to.”

A 23-year-old, whom the Braves drafted in the third round in 2017 out of Riverview High in Florida, Tarnok is up because the Braves need another pitcher. They are in the middle of a crucial series versus the first-place Mets – the Braves entered Tuesday 4-1/2 games behind New York – and host the Astros next before three games in Pittsburgh. The Braves’ next off-day is not until Aug. 25.

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Some in the game viewed 2020 as a lost season for minor leaguers because the pandemic forced Minor League Baseball to cancel its season. Tarnok saw it as an opportunity: At Kinetic Pro Baseball, a gym in Tampa, he took the year off and worked on his pitches. He tried to perfect every one of them, which is where he began to develop an improved change-up that has complemented his fastball and curveball.

“I’d say (2020) was probably the biggest year of my life for helping my career,” Tarnok said.

In Monday’s win over the Mets, left-hander Danny Young tossed 2-2/3 scoreless innings. He performed well, but the unfortunate business of baseball soon hit. Because of the fact that he threw 51 pitches, leaving him unavailable for a couple of days, the Braves optioned Young following Monday’s game, then designated him for assignment Tuesday to clear space on their 40-man roster.

Tarnok is with the Braves to serve as depth out of the bullpen. Months ago, manager Brian Snitker, president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos and others sat in a room as they met with each player at spring training, one by one. Snitker remembers talking to Tarnok back then.

“He came in my office, and it’s like he’s twice the size as I remember,” Snitker said. “He’s gotten bigger and stranger. He’s developing. Loved his arm. He’s an interesting kid. And now, he’s growing into a man. He’s really maturing physically.”

Asked if he would have nerves upon entering for his debut, Tarnok said: “Not really. I kind of have an idea of what’s going on.”

This is who he is: an even-keeled guy. “Yeah, I can’t really help it that much,” Tarnok said. He speaks with the calmness of someone who is not in a big-league clubhouse for the first time.

Tarnok said his parents – his dad, Jeff, and his mom, Neung – were at Truist Park. They came from Tampa – well, they were already here to see him pitch at Gwinnett, so they just drove to a different part of metro Atlanta.

The Braves also placed catcher Chadwick Tromp on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Saturday, with a strained left quadriceps. Tromp suffered the injury in Game 1 of Saturday’s doubleheader, when he went 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs. Tromp filled in nicely with Travis d’Arnaud out, but d’Arnaud is back, meaning Tromp was the Braves’ third catcher.

The Braves also selected infielder Ryan Goins to the major-league roster, giving the squad a backup infielder after Ehire Adrianza landed on the 10-day injured list with a viral infection. Goins has not played in the majors since appearing in 14 games for the White Sox in the shortened 2020 season. At Triple-A Gwinnett this season, Goins has hit .221 with a .522 OPS over 235 at-bats.

Over last weekend, Max Fried’s concussion and Kyle Wright’s arm fatigue forced the Braves to shuffle their rotation. The moving parts began there and have not stopped because the Braves are in a long stretch.

The latest move is bringing up Tarnok, who could make his debut. He didn’t start pitching until his junior year of high school and couldn’t have imagined this when he began working on that craft.

“At first when I started pitching, maybe not so much because I never really focused on it all,” Tarnok said. “I was always playing a position on hitting. Maybe about a year after I started pitching, I kind of knew I threw pretty hard and figured this could be something.”

The Braves needed another infielder

Eddie Rosario had been taking grounders in the infield. He was the Braves’ emergency infielder.

But the Braves removed him from Monday’s game with left hamstring tightness. Thus, they needed Goins to be their backup infielder.

“You don’t know, anything could happen, so we needed to get an infielder in here,” Snitker said.

Last week, Orlando Arcia (left hamstring strain) told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the Braves told him he may be healthy in three to four weeks. The Braves have not released a timeline, but Arcia’s progress seems encouraging.

“A lot better than what I thought, honestly,” Snitker said. “It’s better than what, originally, they had talked about. He’s doing OK. I don’t know what the timeline is, but he’s moving around a lot more than I thought he would be right now.”

Fried, Wright doing well

Max Fried (concussion injured list) and Kyle Wright (arm fatigue) still seem to be doing well.

“No reason right now to think he won’t start at the end of the week,” Snitker said of Fried.

The manager said Wright also is doing well and has not experienced any setbacks.

The Braves have not named a starter for Thursday’s series finale versus New York.

Demeritte designated for assignment

Earlier in the season, Travis Demeritte played a role for the Braves. But they designated him for assignment Tuesday.

They claimed infielder Rylan Bannon off waivers from the Dodgers and optioned him to Triple-A.

After a hot start for the Braves, Demeritte went cold and was batting .213 with a .597 OPS before the club optioned him. He was hitting .207 with a .648 OPS in Triple A.

Bannon went 2-for-14 with five strikeouts in limited big-league action for the Orioles this season.