Atlanta Braves reinforce bullpen after Mike Soroka injury

The Atlanta Braves added two relievers to the active roster today, in an attempt to strengthen their bullpen in the face of rotation uncertainty.

After losing their ace Mike Soroka to a ruptured Achilles tendon Monday night, the Atlanta Braves‘ first move was calling up two bullpen arms; Chad Sobotka and Huascar Ynoa. They made space for the two relievers by placing Mike Soroka on the 45-Day IL and designating Chris Rusin for assignment.

Rusin entered the game with replacing Soroka with two on and one out, making his first major league appearance since he pitched 2/3 of an inning on June 5, 2019, and pitched better than his final line shows. If no one claims him, I expect to see him back in Atlanta this season.

In a conference call with reporters this morning, Atlanta Braves GM Alex Anthopoulos indicated they were discussing what to do about Saturday’s start but said that decision will come later.

Sean Newcomb will start tomorrow, and Touki Toussaint will follow him on Thursday. Results so far this year indicate neither pitcher will go five innings, making a more reliable bullpen even more critical than before Soroka’s injury.

Two big Braves arms

Both of the fresh arms feature high-velocity fastballs. Chad Sobotka made his debut with the Braves in 2018, appearing in 14 games, and pitching to a 1.88 ERA and striking out 22 in 14-1/3 IP.  He also walked nine batters and gave up two homers.

Sobotka started 2019 with Atlanta, and struck out 17 batters in 12 IP. Unfortunately, batters pummeled him to the tune of a .265/.410/.490/.900 line that included three homers and 13 runs allowed, earning him a trip back to Gwinnett.

He returned at the end of June and had better results. In his next 14 innings, he lowered that line to .216/.286/.353/.639 and continued to strike out over one batter an inning. His walks went down as well, but homers continued to haunt him.

Related Story: Max takes the lead

After spending a month at Gwinnett, Sobotka returned in September and made five appearances that lasted only 3-2/3 innings. His overall line for September looks bad, but reliever ERA is misleading at times. After a bad 1/3 inning against the eventual World Series winners, he threw 3-1/3 scoreless innings.

Huascar Ynoa began life as a starter with the Twins and spent 2018 with Rome and Florida as a starter. In 2019 he started for Gwinnett in 14 of his 17 appearances but had trouble limiting runs, finishing the year with a 5.33 ERA in AAA. He appeared in two games in relief for the Atlanta Braves, throwing three innings and allowing six runs.

The Anthopoulos interview

The interview, as reported, tells us just a bit more than we already knew.  The Braves continue to search for trades that help the roster, as they have since summer camp opened.  We didn’t know he was actively calling around for pitching, though it makes sense after losing Cole Hamels, seeing King Felix opt-out, and watching Mike Foltynewicz throw 90mph.

The club will fill the spot internally for now and hope existing prospects step up. The market isn’t as fluid as it usually is approaching the deadline. Sixteen teams will make the postseason, meaning even sub-500 teams have a chance to get in. Those who don’t get in and have pitching available will do what sellers do and ask a high price for a limited resource.

That’s a wrap

Based on past performance, I expect Sobotka to see more innings than Ynoa, and one of them may make way to add a starter for Saturday’s game.

If it’s a prospect that gets the call, Bryse Wilson, Patrick Weigel, and Tucker Davidson are already on the 40-man roster and would likely get a call before anyone who isn’t. Recently DFA’d Jhoulys Chacin hasn’t cleared waivers and could return as well.

Next: More than a game

I’m sure you’ll see posts about potential trades but bear in mind that Anthopoulos isn’t going to suddenly change his strategy and empty the system for a rental, and the market won’t offer much in the way of a top-level arm. We’ll keep you informed when something happens, so stay tuned to the Take.