Dodd makes his case for Braves' rotation spot

March 19th, 2023

NORTH PORT, Fla -- figured he’d spend a few weeks in big league camp and then be sent to the Minor League side. But while constructing one of this year’s best underdog stories, the left-hander has positioned himself to enter Spring Training’s final full week with a chance to win the final spot in the  Braves’ rotation. 

Dodd showed some resiliency and confidence as he pitched effectively into the fifth inning of Saturday night’s 5-1 victory over the Phillies at CoolToday Park. The Braves southpaw allowed a leadoff homer to Brandon Marsh and then surrendered just one more hit before exiting with two outs in the fifth.

“He gave up the homer, but just kept pounding the strike zone,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “That’s a very impressive thing. It’s not going to go perfect every time.” 

This has been a very encouraging weekend for the Braves, who made Dodd and Jared Shuster the two finalists for the fifth starter’s job on Tuesday, when Ian Anderson and Bryce Elder were optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett.

Shuster took advantage of the situation by recording seven strikeouts over four scoreless innings against the Red Sox on Friday. But just when it looked like he might have gained a stronghold in this battle, Dodd responded by tallying four strikeouts while becoming the first Braves pitcher to complete at least 4 2/3 innings this year. He exited to a loud ovation.

“In college, I never really had anything like that,” Dodd said. “Not in the Minors either. So that was pretty cool.”  

Marsh homered to begin the game and Darick Hall singled off the right-field wall two batters later. But as Dodd preps for just his second full professional season, he showed poise while escaping the first inning without further damage. He retired nine of the 10 batters he faced after issuing a two-out walk in the second. 

Dodd has surrendered seven hits, issued two walks and allowed just one run over 13 Grapefruit League innings. He also pitched effectively during the first two innings of a start against the powerful Dominican Republic lineup in a World Baseball Classic tuneup game.

Shuster was taken in the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft and he stands as the Braves’ top prospect per MLB Pipeline. Dodd was taken as a fifth-year senior out of Southeast Missouri St. in the third round of the 2021 MLB Draft.

Senior selections are often taken to create more bonus-pool flexibility for other selections. But Dodd, who ranks as the Braves’ No. 10 prospect, could provide far more value than expected. 

 “I'm just coming in day by day, doing my work and continuing to build on each and every outing,” Dodd said.