Smith-Shawver brings 99 mph spring heat vs. Phillies

Braves' top prospect in mix for club's fifth starter spot; Giles fans side in sizzling relief work

February 28th, 2024

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- is looking to build on his fast track from High-A to the Majors last season.

And despite allowing home runs to J.T. Realmuto and Alec Bohm during his first start in Atlanta's 7-7 tie with Philadelphia on Wednesday afternoon at BayCare Ballpark, that’s still the case.

“My takeaways are, I feel good,” Smith-Shawver said after allowing three runs and four hits over two innings. “I feel like I’m getting ready for the season. But obviously left two pitches to hit and they do damage with bad pitches when you leave them up. Just getting back in the swing of things."

Smith-Shawver reached 99 mph and logged three strikeouts.

“His stuff was pretty good, and we did well against him,” Phillies manager Rob Thomson said.

Smith-Shawver is ranked as the Braves’ No. 1 prospect and baseball’s No. 69 overall by MLB Pipeline.

“Got a couple of sliders in the middle of plate to couple good hitters, and those are the ones that got hit hard,” said Braves bench and infield coach Walt Weiss, who managed the team in place of Brian Snitker on Wednesday. “But the ball was coming out really well,”

The 21-year old Smith-Shawver started his third pro season with High-A Rome in 2023, and he wound up making his big league debut out of the bullpen against the D-backs on June 4 at Chase Field. He ended up going 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA in six games, including five starts.

“Last year, I was heading to Rome, so I was kind of just set on going down there [to Spring Training] and just kind of developing and still am,” Smith-Shawver said. “I feel like I’ve made some strides and I’ve still got a long way to go.”

Smith-Shawver made his first start for the Braves against the Nationals on June 9, 2023, and he got his first win six days later vs. the Rockies.

After making the postseason roster following a late September start, Smith-Shawver allowed three runs -- all on solo homers -- over 2 2/3 relief innings in Game 3 of the National League Division Series against the Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.

“It’s huge,” Smith-Shawver said of the postseason experience. “I think just having an idea of what to expect for postseason baseball. I feel like that environment is one of the toughest environments to pitch in. So just getting that underneath your belt as a 20-year-old, it’s pretty cool."

Smith-Shawver, who is in the mix for the Braves' fifth starter spot, will likely start the season in the Minors. But his time will come again, as Atlanta used 16 starting pitchers in 2023.

Ken 'K'

One-time closer Ken Giles struck out Bryce Harper, Nick Castellanos and Bohm in a 1-2-3 third in his first outing since joining the Braves’ organization earlier this month.

Giles made just four appearances in 2020 before undergoing Tommy John surgery. Since then, he's appeared in just five big league games, all in '22 with Seattle.

“Guys go through TJ, it’s no joke,” Giles said “It’s not just mentally draining, but also physically because you’re just working so hard. Basically almost like two-and-a-half years of straight rehab, it can take a lot out of you. My wife, my kids, they’re right beside me to keep me up. If I didn’t have them, I probably would have just walked away quite frankly.”

The 33-year-old Giles was signed to a Minor League deal on Feb. 2. The right-hander had 34 saves for Houston’s World Series-winning team in 2017, and 26 more the following season between the Astros and Blue Jays. He picked up 23 saves in 2019 for Toronto.

“Looked like they didn’t see a slider very well,” Weiss said. “They weren’t picking it up, you know? Some weird takes, some weird swings and that’s a good day for him.”

Braves bits

• Snitker missed his second straight game due to a stomach virus, but the skipper may be back Thursday.

• Michael Harris II, Chadwick Tromp and Bryson Horne all homered on Wednesday. Harris’ Statcast-projected 432-foot drive went completely out of the ballpark.