Remember Huascar Ynoa? He’s back and feeling better than ever

Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Huascar Ynoa throws in the bullpen during spring training workouts at CoolToday Park, Monday, February, 19, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin /



Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Huascar Ynoa throws in the bullpen during spring training workouts at CoolToday Park, Monday, February, 19, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin /

NORTH PORT, Fla. – In the big-league clubhouse at CoolToday Park, Huascar Ynoa’s locker is next to guys like Dylan Lee, Darius Vines and Dylan Dodd – not Max Fried, Spencer Strider, Charlie Morton and others.

It is symbolic. Ynoa, after all, once seemed to be part of the future in Atlanta – that is, until a fractured hand and Tommy John surgery perhaps made fans forget about him.

In his time away from baseball, Ynoa became “more mature, more concentrated on the things I need to do daily,” he said through interpreter Franco García. (A cool note: Ynoa did some of this interview in English, and it is clear he improved at understanding and speaking the language since he last pitched.) It is easy to forget that Ynoa, who turns 26 in May, is still young.

“I think there’s some things, even off the field, that I was taking too personally, whether it be a comment or something,” Ynoa said. “And just learning how to deal with that.”

Asked how he dealt with that, he said: “Not really use social media and just stay away from that stuff.”

While away from baseball, Ynoa didn’t feel frustrated. He simply felt bad when watching the team play because he couldn’t be there.

To pass the time, Ynoa watched the Braves on television and played PlayStation. He loves “MLB The Show” and “Grand Theft Auto,” which are two popular video games.

But now, Ynoa won’t have as much time to kill. He’s fully healthy and is progressing toward the season. He’s part of the battle for the fifth spot in the rotation at Braves camp.

“I feel pretty strong now,” Ynoa said. “I feel more confidence. Just working hard every day.”

Many Braves fans might’ve forgotten about Ynoa. It’s been almost two years since he’s taken the mound for the big club.

Could he surprise some people this spring?

“I would say yes, just because of the work I put in,” Ynoa said. “The work’s been put in. For me, it’s just about going out and continuing to put in the work, and show what I can do.”

Over the offseason, Ynoa worked on his slider to get it back to where it was before Tommy John surgery. He continued trying to improve his changeup.

Two years ago, Ynoa felt like “something was off in my elbow.” It wasn’t like he couldn’t pitch, but he knew something was wrong.

He allowed 11 runs – 10 earned – over 6 2/3 innings across two starts to open the 2022 season. Then the Braves sent him down. He pitched for Triple-A Gwinnett until his final outing in August. In September, the Braves announced he underwent Tommy John surgery.

That was then.


“I feel pretty good now,” Ynoa said. “I feel healthy, I feel strong.”

Ynoa is competing with Reynaldo Lopez, Bryce Elder and AJ Smith-Shawver for that fifth spot in the rotation. If Hurston Waldrep pitches well enough, perhaps the Braves would consider him, too.

Ynoa on Monday completed his latest bullpen session. At his house in the offseason, he was throwing 30-pitch bullpen sessions. In North Port, before Monday, he would throw 20 to 25 pitches.

When asked if he would be ready for opening day if he made the club or if he might need a short injured-list stint for rehab outings, Ynoa seemed to think he would be built up enough to break camp with the big club if chosen for it.

“I feel good, I feel like I’m good and ready,” he said. “But it’s their decision to make if they think that something else needs to happen or if it needs more time or whatever.”

The moment of a lifetime

Strider broke Riley’s bat at one point during live batting practice. As Riley went to get another bat, a kid was calling out to him.

“I’ll take the bat!” the kid said.

Soon, Riley got the broken bat, walked over past the on-deck circle and gave the bat to a young boy. The kid was excited and surprised.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Sarah Spencer briefly chatted with the young Braves fan, whose day was made by Riley’s gesture. His name is Ryan Patrick, and Riley is his favorite player.

Ryan Patrick was given Austin Riley's bat, delivered by the Braves third baseman, during spring training in North Port, Fla. on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024.

Credit: Sarah K. Spencer

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Credit: Sarah K. Spencer

Pitchers continue ramping up

Among the pitchers throwing bullpen sessions: Chris Sale and Reynaldo Lopez.

Sale threw to Sean Murphy, while Travis d’Arnaud caught Lopez.

Spencer Strider threw live batting practice in the main stadium at the complex. This was the first major live batting practice session of camp for the Braves.

Strider faced Matt Olson and Austin Riley. He threw 30 pitches.