Kyle Wright will begin his bid for a rotation spot when the Braves play the Rays in both teams' Grapefruit League season opener on Sunday afternoon at Charlotte Sports Park.
Wright is slated to start and throw two innings for the Braves, who will also have Sean Newcomb, Grant Dayton, Carl Edwards Jr., Chad Sobotka and Patrick Weigel all available to make a relief appearance.
According to the 2021 Spring Training protocols, spring games through March 13 will be scheduled as seven-inning games but, upon mutual agreement of both managers, may be shortened to five innings or lengthened to nine innings. Games that occur after March 14 will be scheduled as nine-inning games but can be shortened to seven-inning games. Braves manager Brian Snitker said he expects all of his team’s games to be scheduled for seven innings in this two-week span.
With a road game also scheduled for Monday against the Red Sox, Snitker said he expects to play just half of his projected regulars in the Grapefruit League opener.
“I think we’ll just spread it out,” Snitker said. “We’ve got a lot of guys we want to see.”
The Braves' rotation plans will depend on what is determined regarding Mike Soroka over the next few weeks. While the team hasn’t ruled out the possibility that Soroka could be ready at the start of the regular season, the expectation is that he’ll be given extra time to recover from a torn right Achilles tendon.
If Soroka does indeed begin the season on the injured list, Wright and Bryse Wilson are the top candidates for the vacant rotation spot.
Wright has been on Atlanta’s Opening Day roster in each of the past two seasons. But the 25-year-old right-hander has posted a 6.59 ERA while totaling just 12 career starts thus far. He showed some promise when he finished last year’s regular season with three strong starts and then tossed six scoreless innings against the Marlins in Game 3 of the National League Division Series.
Freddie Freeman has spent this week taking care of his wife, Chelsea, who gave birth to the couple’s third son last weekend. The reigning NL MVP is expected to arrive in Florida on Friday night and complete his intake testing on Saturday. This lines him up to begin working out with his Braves teammates on Monday.
Even if Freeman were to miss the entire first week of the Grapefruit League season, he still would have three-plus weeks to prepare for Opening Day.
“It’s not a big deal at all,” Snitker said. “As you guys remember, he usually gets hot for the first 10 days of [the Grapefruit League season] and then gets bored for 10 days and then gets back going. I don’t worry about that at all.”
Other Spring Training protocols
For Spring Training games through March 13, defensive managers will have the option to end an inning before the third out, as long as at least 20 pitches have been totaled in the half inning and a plate appearance is not in progress. This will end the common practice of having to call upon possibly unprepared Minor League pitchers to make an abrupt entrance after a pitcher exceeds his targeted pitch count within an inning.
The three-batter minimum rule will be in effect for every game played on March 14 or later.
Managers will also have the option to re-enter pitchers throughout all of Spring Training. This will give managers the option to use a reliever in a certain situation to end an inning and then possibly bring their starter back to begin the next inning.