Rested Jake Odorizzi to start for Braves Sunday in Seattle

OAKLAND, Calif. — In the second inning of his start in St. Louis on Aug. 28, Jake Odorizzi began to experience arm fatigue. He described it as “sluggishness,” but no one could tell at that time that he felt that way because he carried a no-hitter for a few innings while dealing with it.

Eventually, Odorizzi and the Braves needed to be safe with this.

“It was able to be pitched through, but I think doing it for the rest of the season would have been counterproductive,” Odorizzi said Wednesday in Oakland as he readied for his bullpen session. “You miss one (start), you make the next five instead of just grinding through everything. Being smart about it more than anything else. Nothing major, just sometimes it pops up and some extra days are really beneficial.”

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And those days have helped Odorizzi, who will start on Sunday in Seattle after Wednesday’s bullpen session went well. Charlie Morton and Max Fried are Atlanta’s starters for the first two games of the series.

This never was seen as a serious situation, but the Braves and Odorizzi wanted to be smart. The right-hander threw while getting the extra rest, but starting a game might not have been wise.

“I could do everything, but just had to do extra effort to get to normal, which I think is counterproductive, especially from a mechanical standpoint – don’t want to throw things off and do too much to try to get my normal output,” Odorizzi said. “I’ve kind of worked hard to get back to mechanical feel, so I think it would have been counterproductive to do that and play that game. Just fortunate the timing worked out with off-days, and this, that and the other. Things are looking really good right now.”

And then there’s this, he said:

“It just got to the point where we knew we had extra time. Instead of being pushed back a couple days, it was easier just to skip the whole thing because of our two off-days. It was going to throw off other people’s programs also, so much easier just to pick up in the next spot. It gives me extra time. It doesn’t change their routines, so that was the best course of action.”

Bryce Elder started for Odorizzi on Saturday against the Marlins and hurled six shutout innings. It continued an important trend for the Braves, who have flexed their organizational muscle over the past month.

In August, Kyle Wright (arm fatigue) and Max Fried (concussion) needed extra time. Kyle Muller, Ian Anderson and Elder filled in nicely in Miami. The Braves won all three of the games they started and captured a fourth victory when Elder made another start a few days ago.

“It’s just a credit to the organization itself, having guys that are big-league-caliber guys at the Triple-A level,” Odorizzi said. “When I say the Triple-A level, they’re not Triple-A pitchers, they’re big-league pitchers. And having that flexibility to be able to call upon those guys and they’ve all pitched phenomenal.

“You have three options that I don’t think you’re worrying about, when you call them up, to know what we’re getting. You know what you’re getting out of them. That’s how a good organization is built. Depth of starting pitching is one of the most valuable things in the game.”

In five starts since the Braves acquired him, Odorizzi has a 4.26 ERA. But his performance improved greatly after the rain delay Aug. 17 versus the Mets. He made a couple of mechanical tweaks in the weight room that night and has successfully carried them forward. He has allowed three runs over 11 ⅔ innings in his past two starts.

“The time off really helped out,” Odorizzi said. “Things have progressed really well. Just a little extra time, and things are in a good spot.”

Context on the NL East race

It is a good thing when you’re talking about a pennant race. This is where teams hope to be at this time of the year.

So here’s some more context:

If the Braves win the National League East this season, they will have erased their biggest deficit in the division era (10 ½ games). The 1993 team was 10 games behind first-place San Francisco in the NL West after play July 22, then won the division by one game with 104 wins.

The largest deficit a Braves team has overcome to make the postseason is 15 games in 1914. The Boston Braves went 68-19 over their last 87 games to win the pennant.

The 2022 Braves have gone 63-24 since the start of June.

Things change quickly. The Braves had a 7% chance to win the NL East on June 1, according to Baseball Reference. The Braves now are listed as the favorite in the division, with a 57.3% chance to win it.