With Wright building up, Shuster, Dodd to be in Braves' rotation

March 26th, 2023

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- Top prospects and entered Braves manager Brian Snitker’s office early Sunday morning, not knowing had already been told he will begin the upcoming season on the injured list.

“It was a little weird,” Dodd said. “I was like, ‘Are they really going to tell one of us we’re going?'”

Snitker spent the past couple of weeks enjoying the battle Shuster and Dodd waged for what appeared to be the only available spot in Atlanta’s rotation. He gained greater joy telling the young pitching prospects they both will make a start within the Braves’ first five games.

“I think I even got a reaction out of one of them,” Snitker said. “I know their minds were probably spinning. They knew the numbers and they knew they had done well.”

Even the shy, mild-mannered Shuster couldn’t hide his emotions when he learned that both he and Dodd will both make their respective MLB debuts within the next 10 days. The assumption was only one would get this opportunity, but another rotation spot opened when the Braves decided it was best to give Wright an additional week to strengthen his ailing right shoulder.

“I had a good feeling it would be good news just because they pulled both of us in [the office],” Shuster said. “I was a little confused, but I was excited about the news they gave us.”

Wright is aiming to make his season debut during Atlanta’s first homestand, and he will begin the season on the 15-day injured list. He is trying to make up for the time he lost in January, when he rested for three weeks after receiving a cortisone shot in his right shoulder.

Shuster, who is the Braves’ top prospect per MLB Pipeline, is lined up to start the series finale against the Nationals on April 2 at Nationals Park. The 2020 first-round Draft pick will join Max Fried and Spencer Strider as the starters in the opening series.

After Charlie Morton starts the April 3 series opener against the Cardinals, Dodd will start the next day in St. Louis, which is approximately 180 miles southwest of his hometown of Bismarck, Ill. Many of the town’s 579 residents may travel to Busch Stadium that night.

“I imagine there will be quite a few,” Dodd said. “I know a lot [of people] have reached out through this whole process.”

This process began with Shuster and Dodd coming to camp having no clue they might be considered for a rotation spot. The one open spot was expected to go to Michael Soroka, whose candidacy was erased by a right hamstring strain, or either Ian Anderson or Bryce Elder, who were outpitched by Shuster and Dodd before being sent down on March 14.

So Shuster, who has totaled 212 1/3 innings in the Minors, and Dodd, who has just one full professional season under his belt, became the finalists for the one spot. They both showed great poise and composure as they matched each other’s strong starts over the past couple of weeks.

“It was super stressful,” Dodd said. “It was like it was the biggest start of your life every time out. But as a Major League athlete, that’s what you have to deal with most of the time.”

Shuster and Dodd are non-roster players, so both will need to be added to the 40-man roster. The Braves have one open spot, but they will gain three more when Tyler Matzek, Kolby Allard and Huascar Ynoa begin the season on the 60-day injured list. , , and Shuster could initially fill those four spots.

Snitker said right-handed relievers and will both be on the Opening Day roster. Anderson will replace closer Raisel Iglesias, who will begin the season on the injured list with a sore right shoulder. Tonkin may be the odd man out when Dodd is added to the roster on April 4.

Wright was MLB’s only 20-game winner last year, but he has made just two Grapefruit League starts so far this spring. He’ll now face Minor Leaguers at the Spring Training complex later this week and make a start for Triple-A Gwinnett in Norfolk, Va., before possibly debuting for the Braves near the end of their first homestand.

Teams can backdate an injured list move three days. So Wright could be placed on the IL retroactively to Monday, meaning he wouldn’t be eligible for activation before April 11.