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Gausman's Opening Day status questionable

@mlbbowman
March 19, 2019

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – There’s a chance Kevin Gausman will be deemed ready to join Atlanta’s injury-depleted rotation during the team’s first homestand. But it’s starting to look like Mike Foltynewicz will not be the only Braves starting pitcher to begin the season on the injured list. Gausman took

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – There’s a chance Kevin Gausman will be deemed ready to join Atlanta’s injury-depleted rotation during the team’s first homestand. But it’s starting to look like Mike Foltynewicz will not be the only Braves starting pitcher to begin the season on the injured list.

Gausman took a positive step Tuesday afternoon, as he increased his endurance while totaling 58 pitches over four innings against a group of Minor Leaguers in an intersquad game. Braves manager Brian Snitker hasn’t closed the door on the right-hander being ready by Opening Day. But he dulled any lingering hope by saying Gausman would need to total 90 pitches in a preparatory start before joining Atlanta’s rotation.

“We’ve got a week left and we’ve got to see where we are,” Snitker said, after Tuesday’s 3-2 loss to the Nationals. “I don’t think we’re forced to make any decisions yet. It all depends on what happens his next time out and then kind of go from there.”

Gausman, who was slowed by right shoulder discomfort at the start of camp, could increase his pitch count to approximately 80 during his next start. This would put him on track to possibly pass that 90-pitch threshold on March 29, one day after Atlanta opens its season. Barring any setbacks, Gausman could be available to make his first start as early as April 3, which would be the Braves’ fifth regular-season game.

Because there are two off-days within the regular season’s first six days, the Braves would also have the option to send Opening Day starter Julio Teheran to the mound with an extra day of rest on April 3. So, the Braves could have some wiggle room with Gausman’s potential debut.

Kyle Wright seems to be in line to fill the rotation spot that had been earmarked for Foltynewicz. Braves No. 7 prospect Bryse Wilson and Max Fried are the top candidates to fill what would have been Gausman’s first turn. The preference to send a right-hander to the mound against the Phillies may give Wilson the edge to possibly start one of the team’s first three games.

Regardless, there’s a chance Wilson and Fried will both be on the Opening Day roster. One could be carried as a starter and the other as a long-relief option.

Fried certainly didn’t hurt his bid as he notched seven strikeouts while completing five scoreless innings against the Nationals on Tuesday. The left-hander has posted a 2.35 ERA while recording 16 strikeouts and issuing five walks over 15 1/3 Grapefruit League innings.

“I’m taking the approach that it doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of the game or the start of the game, I want to throw the ball the same,” Fried said. “The stuff I can control is on the field. So, for me, I’m just trying to keep that mentality that whether it’s out of the bullpen or starting, I just want to throw the ball the way I know how.”

Anibal meets Austin

Austin Riley doubled and homered against former Brave Anibal Sanchez during Tuesday’s loss. Riley's two-hit game ended a mini-skid for the highly regarded third-base prospect, who struck out five times over the six at-bats he totaled on Saturday and Sunday.

Riley has struck out 12 times while hitting .267 (12-for-45) with two doubles and a homer. He struck out in each of his first five plate appearances and then endured that rough stretch this past weekend. But for the most part, the young slugger has provided indication he’ll be ready if the Braves need him to play third base or possibly man an outfield position at some point this year.

“I think he’s had a really good camp,” Snitker said. “I’ve been very impressed with him. When we’re ready for him, I think he’s going to be ready.”

Donaldson update

Josh Donaldson did not play Tuesday and he will not make Wednesday’s trip to Dunedin to play against his former Blue Jays teammates. The former American League MVP Award winner is scheduled to get an at-bat per inning while playing in a Minor League game on Thursday.

Donaldson’s previously problematic calves have been cooperative since the start of camp, but Snitker does not want his third baseman having to deal with the long trips that await the Braves as they spend the next two days playing in Dunedin and Port Charlotte.

“I just don’t want to take a guy three hours on a bus,” Snitker said. “That’s bad on good legs. He’s fine. He’s healthy. It’s just not real [smart] to be doing that.”

Up next

Sean Newcomb will be on the mound when the Braves travel to Dunedin to play the Blue Jays Wednesday at 1:07 p.m. ET. Newcomb has surrendered 12 hits and issued 10 walks over 12 Grapefruit League innings.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.