Who replaces Norris? Braves exploring options

Braves GM John Coppolella addressed moves on a busy Thursday. (Video by David O'Brien)

The Braves already were scrambling to fill out a patchwork starting rotation due mainly to injuries, and now they’ll have to fill another spot after trading veteran pitcher Bud Norris to the Dodgers on Thursday.

“That’s why I hate to see him go,” Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said. “You don’t just turn around and have somebody come in and do what he did. Somebody’s going to get an opportunity to better themselves and put themselves out there. It’s one of those things, too, where we’re just going to take that day-to-day as to how we’re going to fill that spot.”

Braves general manager John Coppolella said the Braves were considering options not only from their minor league system, but also exploring potential trades for proven starters who might be available and are signed beyond the 2016 season.

“We’re always trying to find good options, whether they’re here or they’re from the outside,” he said. “We’ve talked to clubs about trades for starting pitchers signed beyond this year, just because we want to try to build the best team we can, not only for 2016 but going forward in 2017 and beyond. So there are a number of players that could factor into our mix.”

Norris’ next scheduled start was Saturday, and Tyrell Jenkins was the frontrunner to fill that spot, in what would’ve been the prospect’s first major league start. But that changed when Jenkins was needed in long relief Thursday against the Marlins after Mike Foltynewicz was replaced following a 68-minute rain delay in the third inning.

“That’s a definite possibility,” Snitker had said before Thursday’s game, when asked about starting Jenkins Saturday. “Then just maybe look to who’s available in Triple-A, just kind of revisit it every day and see what our option is. There’s a couple of guys down there who are experienced, or even guys here. I don’t know.”

But Snitker also made it clear how that plan could change depending on what happened in games Thursday and Friday, alluding to the possibility that Jenkins would be needed in relief. Which is what happened. Jenkins was no longer a candidate for Saturday’s start.

Foltynewicz made his his first start since a four-week stint on the disabled list for bone spurs. He made one rehab start and was set to make another before the Braves decided they needed Foltynewicz back in the big-league rotation after losing John Gant to a strained intercostal muscle.

The Braves also have a void in the rotation after sending struggling rookie Aaron Blair back to Triple-A.

“Today (Thursday) is going to affect tomorrow, tomorrow will affect the next day, just how the games go,” Snitker said. “That’s why it’s probably going to have to be a day-to-day thing right now.”

Joel De La Cruz made his major league debut Wednesday, when the 27-year-old rookie pitched six innings of three-run ball against the Indians. He pitched well enough to earn a second start Monday, particularly given the state of the Braves rotation. If he pitches well, he could stick in the rotation at least through the All-Star break.

Williams Perez is rehabbing from a strained rotator cuff in his pitching shoulder and could be back around the All-Star break, though the Braves haven’t given a specific timetable for his return.

“It’s been tough because a lot of our young pitchers have been hurt,” Coppolella said. “We expect to get some of them back pretty quick. There’s some young pitchers that may get opportunities because of this trade, and we may look at some veteran options as well. But we’re still trying to figure out who the right fit is to start Saturday.”

About the Author