Braves pitching prospect Jenkins to get a look as reliever

LOS ANGELES – Tyrell Jenkins has a good fastball clocked frequently in the 92-94 mph range, a solid curveball and an improving change-up. A former top-100 prospect, he’s a 23-year-old starter who’s pitched well in his first full season in Triple-A, a phone call away from his first big-league stint.

But the Braves have been wondering, what if the hard-throwing right-hander were to move to the bullpen? Might he throw a little harder? And could he help the Braves’ major league team sooner as a reliever?

They’re about to find out. The Braves have decided to try Jenkins as a reliever at Triple-A Gwinnett.

“Pitching him out of the bullpen, just get him a different look,” Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said of the organization’s decision. “No, he wasn’t struggling (as a starter). Just see how he does (in the bullpen). Little different look and maybe get after it a little more — you don’t have to pace yourself, get out there and blow for a couple of innings.”

Jenkins pitched in relief Friday night, striking out three and allowing two hits and no walks in two scoreless innings against Durham.

In an organization stacked with young starting pitchers, success in the bullpen could have an obvious benefit for Jenkins.

“It might be the thing that gets him up a here quicker,” said Snitker, who was Jenkins’ manager at Gwinnett before being named to replace fired Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez nearly three weeks ago.

Jenkins was 5-3 with a 2.97 ERA in 10 games as a starter at Gwinnett before Friday, with 40 strikeouts and 22 walks in 57 2/3 innings.

He had not pitched over six innings all season until Sunday, when he worked seven innings against Syracuse and gave up eight hits (tied for his season-high), two runs and one walk with four strikeouts. He had a season-high nine strikeouts in six innings in his last start before that one.

“His curveball and changeup were really good,” Snitker said. “He’s just got to have better fastball command, pretty much. That’s kind of typical of all young pitchers. When (John) Smoltz was young the stuff was there, it was just learning the command of it.

“But he (Jenkins) has got weapons. Very competitive kid. So that’s all good things.”

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