The Braves could welcome the return of two rehabbing relievers and possibly one starter-turned-reliever entering the final month of the regular season.
Sam Freeman and Peter Moylan, two veterans who struggled before their disabled-list stints, are headed to Triple-A Gwinnett to continue their rehab assignments. Starter Brandon McCarthy threw off the mound Tuesday in preparation for a potential return.
Freeman pitched two-thirds of an inning for Single-A Rome on Sunday, allowing a hit and walking two. He was transferred to Gwinnett on Tuesday, when he’s scheduled to throw another inning.
“He’s feeling good,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He’s just going to be a little rusty obviously. I don’t know if it was as sharp as he’d want it to be. It’s not going to take him long. His arm feels good. It’s just about getting him back out there on a routine. After he does a couple more, we’ll see where we’re at, the need. He’d be ready if there was a need.”
Freeman’s season was unimpressive before he was sidelined with shoulder inflammation. He produced a 5.45 ERA while walking 27 over 39-2/3 innings. The command he exhibited in 2017, when he was among the bullpen’s more reliable arms, was nonexistent.
Moylan was placed on the DL with a right-forearm strain July 31. He struck out 23 and walked 18 over 28-1/3 innings, and like Freeman, couldn’t find consistency despite ample opportunities.
The 39-year-old won’t return before the 25-man rosters expand to 40 on Sept. 1, though Freeman could return sooner if there’s a need, Snitker said.
Enter McCarthy, who hasn’t pitched since June 24 because of right-knee tendinitis that put him on the 60-day DL. He made 15 starts for the Braves, accumulating a 4.92 ERA with a 65:21 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 78-2/3 innings.
But he wasn’t pitching deeply into games, never exceeding six innings and hitting that plateau just three times. McCarthy’s stamina was concerning, and the righty threw more than 88 pitches twice.
Snitker believes a healthy McCarthy could have value in the final month. The veteran will soon throw a live batting practice in Gwinnett before pitching rehab innings. The Braves would use him in one- or two-inning increments if he returns.
“If it works out, when we expand the roster we’ll put him in the bullpen,” Snitker said. “You could tell the point when he started getting a little tired (while throwing off the mound Tuesday). It’s just going to be stamina. We’ll use him an inning, maybe two. But stuff was pretty good. If he feels good, it’s just about regular work and getting back to pitching shape. The ball coming out of his hand looked pretty good.”