Braves go with young arms to start the 2019 season

Even Wilson, Wright can’t believe their big-league break

When Bryse Wilson strolled into manager Brian Snitker’s office Thursday, he didn’t anticipate being informed he’d start the second game of the season. When Kyle Wright did the same, he thought he was ticketed for Triple-A. 

“Going into the office, I thought I was going to be sent down,” Wright said. “Snit told me ‘We love the way you pitch. We love the way you compete. So we’re going to start you game 3 in Philly.’ I was kind of shocked at first but whenever I gathered what he said, I was beyond excited.”

Wilson and Wright will follow veteran Julio Teheran in the Braves’ rotation. Wilson will make his second career start Saturday, while Wright’s first outing will come on ESPN’s nationally televised Sunday Night Baseball.

The Braves went bold with their rotation, a decision necessitated by injuries to Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman. Wilson, 21, and Wright, 23, earned their spots to help the Braves defend a National League East title.

Both had supremely impressive springs. The Braves didn’t anticipate Wright breaking through this soon; Wilson entered camp widely considered behind in the rotation race. And while ailments may have forced the situation, the Braves and their youth could be better for it.

“I never expected to be throwing day 2 but I’m just grateful for the opportunity,” Wilson said. “Hopefully I can go out there and help the team win. … I’m sure the atmosphere will be electric, being opening weekend in Philly. I’m just excited to go out there and live out a dream.”

Wright added: “I got to travel to Philly last year and it’s a great stadium, a great fan base. It’s going to be a lot of fun, especially being opening weekend.”

Wilson believes his change-up has undergone immense growth. He feels his slider has more depth. Mentally, he’s on another level than he was a year ago. Wright has continued harnessing an attacking mindset to pair with his lauded command.

Their growth prompted members of the Braves coaching staff and front office to put their faith in their prospects. Wilson and Wright were called in back-to-back by Snitker, pitching coach Rick Kranitz and general manager Alex Anthopoulos, among others.

“I was shocked and excited,” Wright said. “Trying to keep a straight face and keep it cool. I went in there and sat down at the table, and Bryse just peers over and goes ‘What did they just tell you?’ I said I’m starting game 3. He said ‘I’m starting game 2.’ So it was a cool moment for both of us and we got to share it together.”

So their rises culminated with each calling their parents Thursday. Wilson’s mother and father are flying to Philadelphia for the game. Wright initially only reached his mother — his dad was coaching a high school game  — and she was ecstatic. 

It likely won’t be the last time Wilson and Wright go back-to-back. But that’s a memory, and a beginning, the young pairing will always have.

“Those were good ones,” Snitker said. “The first opening day roster, that’s a big deal. We have a bunch of guys who I’ve told. It’s a big deal. It’s a special honor.”

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