Youngsters could take some innings for taxed bullpen


After 17 pitchers were relied upon Thursday, the Braves and Diamondbacks take on additional challenges in managing their bullpens for the remaining three games in Phoenix.

The Braves bullpen is a bit taxed, which shifts responsibility to youngsters Kyle Wright and Bryse Wilson. Almost all their usual options need rest, with six games remaining until a Sept. 13 off-day.

Brad Brach had to enter in a pinch Thursday, coming through with the save. He’s told manager Brian Snitker he’ll pitch as much as he can in the waning weeks if it translates to wins.

Sam Freeman, who pitched his fourth game in a week’s span, could use a break. The same can be said of Luke Jackson, while Dan Winkler is likely unavailable after logging back-to-back appearances.

A.J. Minter was off-limits Thursday and could benefit from another day of rest. Shane Carle has pitched three of the past four nights. Jesse Biddle allowed two runs in a blown save Thursday, and after pitching back-to-back and three of four, he needs time.

Jonny Venters entered Thursday, and he also informed Snitker he’d be willing to pitch again Friday. The lefty, of course, has a history of arm problems after enduring four separate surgeries. 

Snitker would still prefer to avoid Venters, but the mindset doesn’t go unnoticed. 

“But I appreciate the fact that he came in and told ‘I’m good to go,’ ” Snitker said. “And he told me when he came that he’d be transparent with me, said ‘I’ll let you know.’ So I said ‘Please do. I want you to.’ ”

The Braves benefited from September callups, when rosters grow from 25 to 40 and bullpens expand throughout the majors. They also have Kevin Gausman on the mound Friday, who since coming over from Baltimore, has been the team’s consistent innings eater.

Wright and Wilson could be godsends in the coming days, with both minor-league starters stretched out and able to assume substantial workloads out of the bullpen. Lefty Max Fried rejoined the team recently, providing a third starter-turned-long-reliever. 

“We’re still OK,” Snitker said. “There are some young guys who haven’t been through this situation before. I feel confident in the guys down there who are young, they’re talented, they have the stuff. They have the weapons to get hitters out with. Probably a little different situation for some of them maybe.”

Wilson dazzled in his first start, tossing five shutout innings in Pittsburgh. His next appearance came out of the bullpen, when the MLB-best Red Sox recorded three runs on two hits, along with three walks, in a discouraging one-inning outing.

Wright came out of the bullpen against Boston Sept. 4, pitching scoreless seventh and eighth innings. Fried hasn’t pitched in the majors since injuring himself a month ago in the second inning of a start in Washington.

But with the Braves’ need for a fresh bullpen in the postseason – whether they make it or not, the possibility must be kept in mind – their trio of arms, with a lot to prove, could be the remedy for a group that’s worked heavily in recent days.


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