ATLANTA -- As the Braves spent the past few years stockpiling highly regarded pitching prospects, Lucas Sims became somewhat of a forgotten figure. But the 23-year-old hurler has handled the challenges presented to him during his first two Major League starts, showing he still possesses some of the promise he had when he was once the organization's top prospect.
Encouraged by the six solid innings he delivered against the mighty Dodgers in his Major League debut earlier this week, Sims displayed fortitude as he recovered nicely after surrendering a pair of homers in the four-run first inning that decided Sunday's 4-1 loss to the Marlins at SunTrust Park.
"I had two options: I could roll over and it could get real ugly, or go out there and make the most of it and try to keep us in it," Sims said. "I chose the latter. The first one is really not an option."
Showing the mental strength that the Braves have admired since taking the suburban Atlanta native in the first round (21st overall) of the 2012 Draft, Sims hit Giancarlo Stanton in the left thigh with a first-pitch fastball and issued a five-pitch walk to Christian Yelich before giving up back-to-back home runs to Marcell Ozuna and J.T. Realmuto.
All of this occurred before the game's second out was recorded. But the four-run eruption served as the only damage Sims incurred over six innings. He allowed the Marlins to produce just five more baserunners after he hung a curveball to Ozuna, then gifted Realmuto with a center-cut slider.
"It was definitely a situation where you could potentially make it only one or two innings," Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said. "Then he got pretty darn good after that first inning. It was just one big mistake. [Ozuna] mishit it, but the ball carries, and that's a big, strong guy. The big thing was the hit batter and then the walk. That makes it hurt a lot more than if it's just a solo homer."
Now ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the 19th-best prospect within Atlanta's talent-rich system, Sims made strides this year as he posted a 3.75 ERA and produced 2.8 walks per nine innings over 20 appearances (19 starts) for Triple-A Gwinnett. He has distanced himself from the control problems that led him to issue 5.9 BB/9 with Double-A Mississippi and Gwinnett last year.
In his Major League debut against the Dodgers on Tuesday, Sims gave up three runs over six innings and did not walk a batter. The only walks he issued in this latest outing were the ones Yelich drew in the first and third.
"I think [the first two starts] have gone all right," Sims said. "I expect more out of myself. I have to be better for these guys. You learn from it, move on and prepare for the next one."
Braves manager Brian Snitker has known Sims since the pitcher's days at Brookwood High School. He has always appreciated the competitive nature possessed by the right-hander, whose progression toward the Majors was briefly halted in 2015, when he sustained a hip injury in a bus accident with his Class A Advanced Carolina teammates en route to Myrtle Beach, S.C.
"There's just so much to like about this kid," Snitker said. "Whatever he does, he's going to go out there, learn from it and continue to get better."