Tucker Davidson could pitch his way into bigger role

After a solid start Tuesday, Tucker Davidson has thrown his name into the Braves’ pitching mix moving forward.

ExploreTucker Davidson optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett

Davidson, 25, allowed three runs on five hits across six innings in the Braves’ eventual 4-3 loss. It was a spot start made necessary by Huascar Ynoa’s broken hand. Ynoa won’t be back anytime soon (neither will Mike Soroka), so the Braves have starts available.

Bryse Wilson, Kyle Wright and Davidson are the trio vying for those starts. The Braves gave Davidson the nod over Wright for Tuesday’s start, which gave the rest of their rotation extra rest. But at least one of the trio needs to emerge as more than surplus pitching, as Ynoa did before his injury.

The Braves have four starters set in stone, when healthy: Max Fried, Ian Anderson, Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly. Perhaps they can rotate the fifth spot, but an Ynoa-like emergence would certainly go a long way toward the team stabilizing itself after a disappointing 42-game stretch.

Manager Brian Snitker praised Davidson after his start, lauding the growth he’s shown since spring training 2020. Snitker felt Davidson has refined his breaking pitches. He was also impressed with the youngster’s poise.

“He’s a young kid that’s growing,” Snitker said. “He’s been put in some spots, was rushed up here last year. ... He’s a kid who was impressive in spring training a couple years and I think he might be maturing, figuring some things out. The breaking ball is real. That was really good. That was a very impressive outing by him.”

ExploreTucker Davidson-William Contreras friendship proves fruitful

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Davidson is the Braves’ No. 10 prospect, per Baseball America. It’s questioned whether Davidson will remain a starter long term, but the Braves have been committed to developing him as such. Maybe they’ll be rewarded in the coming months.

Wilson pitched well in his latest major-league start, allowing two runs over six innings against the Blue Jays, but that was over a week ago. A downside to yo-yoing pitchers between Triple-A and the majors is the lack of consistent opportunities. It’s a double-edged sword: The player needs to perform to earn more chances, but without those chances, it’s hard to develop a rhythm and perform at one’s best. Nobody said pitching development was easy.

Nonetheless, the Braves need each of these hurlers to maximize whatever opportunities they receive. While it wasn’t a dominant performance, Davidson did so Tuesday, keeping the Braves in the game. As Snitker has referenced recently, the Braves’ “old” offense could score enough to win a game like that (but that’s a separate issue).

“I just wanted to continue doing what I was doing in (Triple-A) Gwinnett and give the team every opportunity to win the ballgame,” said Davidson, who had a 0.64 ERA in two Triple-A starts before his promotion. “I wanted to go deep into the game and just help us win as much as I could.”

In whichever way Davidson, Wilson and Wright are used, they’re becoming more than just expendable depth now. They’re necessary. If another Braves starter goes down for an extended period – the realities of the MLB season and the Braves’ recent luck suggest that’s quite possible - they’re looking at two of the three being every-fifth-day options.

It’s safe to pencil Davidson into the conversation now. It’s unclear when his next major-league appearance will be, and the role he’ll serve in doing so, but it looks like there’s a spot for the lefty on the 2021 Braves. It’s up to him to make the most of it.

“He has a pretty good fastball, pretty good slider,” reliever Will Smith said. “He’s going to be a good one, hopefully.”