The dramatics in the ninth and 10th innings of the Braves’ come-from-behind win in St. Louis on Sunday night wouldn’t have been possible without what Touki Toussaint did in the sixth and seventh innings.
After entering the game with the Braves trailing 3-0, Toussaint worked two scoreless, hitless innings to keep the game from getting out of hand.
A starter throughout his minor-league career, Toussaint has provided the Braves with welcomed relief of late. Through Sunday, he has made seven appearances out of the bullpen this season, allowing just two earned runs across 18-2/3 innings in those games. He hasn’t given up a hit or a run in his past four appearances.
Touissant, 22, may well have a big future as a starting pitcher, but that’s not what the Braves need from him right now.
“It’s challenging. I like challenges,” Toussaint said in discussing the adjustment to the bullpen before Sunday’s game. “It’s something new I’ve never done before.”
The biggest adjustment, he said, is in how he warms up.
“I went from, like, 25-30 pitches I throw in the ’pen before a start to eight to 10, maybe 15 (before a relief appearance),” he said. “First time I did it, it was kind of weird. Now, you’re kind of getting used to it. But you have no other choice — either you’re ready or you’re not.”
Toussaint opened the season at Triple-A Gwinnett. Since then, he has been called up to the big leagues three times and sent back down twice. His most recent call-up was on May 15, making this his longest big-league stint of the season.
More shuttling between majors and minors is possible, but for now the use of Toussaint in a relief role reflects the Braves’ strategy of deploying some of their depth of young starting pitching to bolster the bullpen. He provides a quality the Braves like in relievers: the ability to pitch multiple innings in a game. He has pitched at least two innings in five of his seven relief appearances.
“I really like how he has adapted to that (bullpen role),” manager Brian Snitker said. “… Whether or not he stays down there, who knows? But for now he fits there.”
Snitker thinks working out of the big-league bullpen sometimes can be beneficial for young pitchers even if they ultimately return to a starter’s role. He cited the example of Max Fried, who contributed out of the Braves’ bullpen late last season and has settled into their starting rotation this season.
* * *
Catch up on Braves coverage from the holiday weekend:
> The Braves take stock at the season’s one-third mark.
> The Braves were off Monday. It was the first time in 34 years that the MLB schedule didn’t have them playing on Memorial Day.
> Mike Soroka’s streak puts him in elite company.
> Ender Inciarte’s back “still barking” after 10 days on injured list.
> Mike Foltynewicz’s turnaround bolsters the starting rotation.
> One game that got away.
> Announcement is expected Wednesday that SunTrust Park will host the MLB All-Star game in 2021.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.