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Wright latest Braves hurler to help fill void

@mlbbowman
August 8, 2020

Going through the remainder of this season without Mike Soroka will continue to create some uneasiness. But five days after losing their ace to a season-ending right Achilles injury, the Braves are feeling better about what Sean Newcomb, Touki Toussaint and Kyle Wright could do to fortify their fractured rotation.

Going through the remainder of this season without Mike Soroka will continue to create some uneasiness. But five days after losing their ace to a season-ending right Achilles injury, the Braves are feeling better about what Sean Newcomb, Touki Toussaint and Kyle Wright could do to fortify their fractured rotation.

“We didn’t know where we’d be sitting after [Soroka’s injury],” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I think we’re sitting really good and feel really good about where all three of those guys are heading.”

Snitker expressed this optimism after Wright created encouragement with the six-inning effort he provided in a 5-0 loss to the Phillies on Saturday night at Citizens Bank Park. The highly regarded prospect allowed a pair of costly homers in a four-run fourth. But like Newcomb and Toussaint earlier this week, Wright took a step in the right direction.

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“I’ve known those guys for a while now,” Braves shortstop Dansby Swanson said. “I understand how they go about their business and their mentality. They look for those moments to be able to help make a difference on this team. I was not shocked each of them would come out with a little bit of an edge. That’s what they’ve been doing.”

Freddie Freeman expressed exactly what the Braves were feeling after Soroka tore his right Achilles tendon on Monday night by saying, “There’s no sugarcoating it, this night sucks.” But Max Fried calmed the mood on Tuesday, when he delivered six strong innings against the Blue Jays.

Still, Fried was the one other rotation piece the Braves could already rely on beyond Soroka. They were always slated to be the top two starters within a rotation that was originally supposed to also include Mike Foltynewicz, Cole Hamels and Félix Hernández.

So the increased confidence in this restructured rotation is a product of what’s happened over the past three games. Newcomb bounced back from two shaky outings to pitch strong into the fifth inning of Wednesday’s game against the Blue Jays. Toussaint was magnificent as he struck out nine over 6 2/3 innings against Toronto on Thursday.

As for Wright, he allowed four runs over six innings in the series-opening loss to the Phillies. But the club's No. 4 prospect limited all of his damage to a four-run fourth that included J.T. Realmuto’s leadoff homer and a three-run blast from Jay Bruce, who hit a first-pitch slider into the right-field seats.

Bruce’s homer was hit after Jean Segura drew one of the three walks issued by Wright. Segura was fortunate that home-plate umpire Ron Kulpa didn’t ring him up on a 2-2 pitch that appeared to catch the outer third of the plate.

“It was a frustrating outing, but at the same time, I definitely feel good about it,” Wright said.

Going six innings was definitely a step in the right direction for Wright, who had not completed more than 3 2/3 innings in four of his six previous career starts. He totaled seven walks over his first two starts this season, but he registered a first-pitch strike to 22 of the 26 Phillies faced.

“He never quit pitching,” Snitker said. “I’m glad he put that [fourth] inning behind him and went through six innings. That was huge. The fact he got through the sixth inning, I thought it was a step up.”

Newcomb, Toussaint and Wright will need to continue stepping up for the Braves, who know Hamels will be on the injured list until at least Sept. 6. But in Soroka’s absence, these three have already created encouragement by taking a step forward.

“Hopefully, they continue to build on what they’ve done,” Snitker said. “Hopefully, it continues to breed confidence.”

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