Over May’s first 10 days, the Braves have made 26 personnel moves. They’ve made at least one each day, the number varying from one (May 3) to four (May 2, 8 and 10). Twenty different players have been involved, the latest being pitcher Tanner Roark, signed to a minor-league deal Monday.

And that’s just May. The final day of April saw five moves. So did April 17. April 14 saw seven. Even if you watch every Braves game, there’ve been many nights over these first six weeks when you’ve thought, “Who’s this guy?”

This flurry of maneuvers wasn’t a function of a fledgling general manager trying to prove his worth. Alex Anthopoulos is way beyond that. Over his past four seasons as a GM, his teams have finished first, first, first and first. Still, he realizes his is a key role. Once a season begins, he considers it his mission never to let his team get caught short. That’s at any position, from long relievers to late-inning pinch-hitters, in any game.

The Braves have worked 34 games. They’ve used 37 players, including 20 pitchers. The daily churn hasn’t been for cosmetic purposes. It has mostly been because of injuries. Two starting pitchers have been on the injured list, not counting Mike Soroka, whose return date has been pushed back. They lost two catchers in one day. (Anthopoulos: “I’ve never seen that happen before.”) They’ve run through three center fielders, two of whom remain on the IL. They’ve had to work without relievers Chris Martin and Sean Newcomb.

Atlanta Braves catcher Travis d'Arnaud tags out Toronto Blue Jays' Randal Grichuk during the sixth inning of a baseball game Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Atlanta Braves catcher Travis d'Arnaud tags out Toronto Blue Jays' Randal Grichuk during the sixth inning of a baseball game Saturday, May 1, 2021, in Dunedin, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)

Credit: Mike Carlson

Credit: Mike Carlson

Glass-half-full: The Braves haven’t yet been hit with a season-ending injury, although catcher Travis d’Arnaud, who hurt his thumb, mightn’t return until Labor Day. But some of these moves haven’t come after a player got hurt. Some have been made in the effort to prevent injury. Fourteen of the 26 roster spots are usually claimed by pitchers. As best they can, the Braves try to keep those pitchers fresh. Said Anthopoulos: “What we’re always trying to do is protect our arms.”

Josh Tomlin is neither a starting pitcher nor a closer, but there are times where he’s the most important Brave. On Friday, he was summoned with two out in the first inning, Charlie Morton having yielded six unearned runs. Tomlin worked through the fifth. Jesse Biddle handled the sixth and seventh. The game was lost, but the bullpen wasn’t so gassed it was left understaffed for Saturday’s game, which proved fortunate. That night the Braves needed six relievers to outlast Philadelphia over 12 innings.

Biddle was signed as a free agent on April 2, a week after he’d been cut by Cincinnati. He was summoned two weeks later from the alternate training site. He wasn’t a high-value acquisition, but he’s a pitcher, a commodity for which there’s never a shortage. Victor Arano was claimed off waivers from Philly in January; Jasseel De La Cruz has been with the Braves since 2015, never as a major-leaguer. On Saturday, Arano and De La Cruz were promoted to the bigs. On Monday, they were sent back to Gwinnett.

Braves outfielders Marcell Ozuna (from left), Guillermo Heredia, and Ronald Acuna pose for a selfie at the end of a 10-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)
Braves outfielders Marcell Ozuna (from left), Guillermo Heredia, and Ronald Acuna pose for a selfie at the end of a 10-0 victory over the Chicago Cubs Wednesday, April 28, 2021, in Atlanta. (Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@ajc.com)

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Guillermo Heredia was claimed off waivers from the Mets in February, the Mets opting to make Kevin Pillar their fourth outfielder. Heredia was summoned to the majors on April 14, after starting center fielder Cristian Pache was injured. Soon Ender Inciate was on the IL, leaving Heredia as the everyday center fielder. On April 18 he hit two home runs and had six RBIs against the Cubs. Now Heredia is injured — strained hamstring — and Pache is back in CF.

The Braves had no burning need for Ehire Adrianza when they signed him as a free agent in January. They figured Johan Camargo would be their utility guy. Adrianza outhit Camargo in spring training and made the club. He has played second base, third base, shortstop and right field. He has served as a DH. He has made 15 starts. He’s hitting .295 with 11 RBIs and two homers. His RBI single won Saturday’s epic tilt.

Said Anthopoulos: “You don’t know what’s going to happen. You need some good stories. Like Ryan Flaherty and Preston Tucker (in the early stages of the 2018 season). Like Tyler Matzek. Like (Rafael) Ortega hitting a grand slam against the Dodgers (on Aug. 18, 2018, off Dustin May).”

Not every deft acquisition triggers a press-conference introduction. Anthopoulos has made his share of those: Josh Donaldson, Dallas Keuchel, Marcell Ozuna. But how much did Anibal Sanchez, signed five days after being cut by Minnesota, mean to the 2018 Braves? How big was Adienny Hechavarria near the end of 2019? You never know who’s going to get hurt, but you have to make sure there’s somebody ready to step in.

Anthopoulos: “We had such a healthy spring, but now no one cares. You have to find a way to get through it.”

We’ve spent the past few weeks chronicling the Braves’ failure to ignite. For all their issues, they’re 1-1/2 games out of first place, back again at .500. “You have to hold serve,” Anthopoulos said, and that’s really the mission until things settle, assuming they ever do.

A 162-game season is a long haul, but a team can only play one game at time. That’s the reason for all this motion. Their GM asks, “What can I do to help us win today?” Then he does it.

About the Author

ajc.com

In Other News