Schwellenbach's rapid ascent continues with first MLB win

June 19th, 2024

ATLANTA -- Hurston Waldrep quickly learned he needs a lot more experience. has spent the past few weeks trying to prove experience is overrated.

Schwellenbach once again performed like a seasoned veteran as he helped the Braves claim a 2-1 win over the Tigers on Tuesday night at Truist Park. The 24-year-old rookie hurler, Atlanta's No. 3 prospect, has easily exceeded expectations that surrounded him on May 29, when he made his Major League debut, despite having made just two starts above the High-A Minor League level.

“He’s got such a good idea about what he wants to do,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He executes his pitches and repeats his delivery and all the little things. He fields his position and holds runners really well.”

Schwellenbach impressed friends and family members as he recorded seven strikeouts and limited his home-state Tigers to one run and three hits over six innings. The Saginaw, Mich., native also notched his first career win with the help of a two-run first that included an Ozzie Albies triple and singles from both Jarred Kelenic and Marcell Ozuna.

The Braves surprised everyone when they revealed they were bringing Schwellenbach to the Majors at the end of May. The young hurler began this season with High-A Rome and didn’t even get promoted to the Double-A level until May 15. But this accounts for just a portion of his meteoric rise.

Schwellenbach played shortstop during his first two seasons at the University of Nebraska and didn’t begin pitching at the collegiate level until 2021, when he served as the Cornhuskers’ closer. The Braves drafted him that summer knowing he’d miss 2022 while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

So, Schwellenbach’s first post-high school experience as a starter came last year, when he completed five innings in just seven of 16 starts. He has completed at least five innings in three of his first four MLB starts. More impressively, he has allowed two runs or less while completing six innings in both of his past two outings.

“It’s incredible, man,” Braves catcher Travis d’Arnaud said. “The adjustments he’s made and just how fast he’s made the adjustments, are really impressive, especially with all of his pitches. It’s impressive to see how comfortable he is with his changeup, when [in the Minors] it wasn’t really one of his best pitches.

“We all know about his slider and heater. His heater commands so good and he’s able to put it in all four quadrants at 95-98 [mph]. Now, his curveball is coming along. You can basically call whatever you want and you can have confidence he’ll put it wherever you want it.”

This isn’t something you’d expect to hear about a pitcher who came to the Majors a few weeks ago having completed just 110 professional innings. Waldrep, the Braves’ first-round Draft pick last year, completed 84 2/3 innings before he made his MLB debut on June 9.

Waldrep wasn’t even close to being ready. He was chased in the fourth inning of both of his first two career starts and was told he was going back to Triple-A before he informed the team’s trainers of elbow discomfort. He is now on the injured list.

Schwellenbach seems to be more of an outlier when it comes to pitchers who have tasted success with limited pro experience. He’s not skilled like Paul Skenes. But his athleticism and work ethic are impressive. He credits this early success to the many hours of offseason training he did in St. Petersburg this past winter. One of his training partners was Casey Mize, the Tigers’ starting pitcher on Tuesday night.

“A lot of people helped me out and kind of challenged me,” Schwellenbach said. “I worked hard this offseason with different pitches and lost 10 pounds. I feel faster. I feel a lot healthier.”

Schwellenbach said his arsenal consisted of three or four pitches around this time last year. He ditched a two-seamer at the Minor League level, but regained a feel for it leading up to his June 12 start in Baltimore. A little more than a month ago, his cutter was just an occasional “show” pitch.

The Tigers whiffed with seven of 17 swings against the cutter on Tuesday. They put four cutters in play with an average exit velocity of 74.2 mph. This pitch he developed over the past month has become a reliable weapon to team with his four-seamer and slider.

“I’m just growing every time I pitch,” Schwellenbach said.