Touki Toussaint has been with the Braves long enough to pitch in segments of three seasons, so it’s easy to forget that he’s still one of the younger pitchers on Atlanta’s 40-man roster.
The 24-year-old has pitched in 38 games since debuting in 2018, but he’s still working on gaining a more permanent spot on a big league pitching staff. If his performance on Friday against the Twins is to serve as a precursor for things to come, Toussaint may be ready to take a significant step forward in ’21.
The right-hander threw three scoreless innings of relief, allowing one hit. Toussaint allowed a leadoff single in the fifth to Nelson Cruz and then retired nine straight.
“I’m just trying to take it day by day, honestly,” Toussaint said prior to the Braves’ game with the Red Sox on Saturday. “A day like yesterday could go either way, it could go really good or really bad. I just try and take it day by day and keep building towards that consistency I want.”
Toussaint said he worked on some mechanical issues during the offseason that he feels are now fixed, and paying off. The next couple of weeks will determine where Toussaint may fit into the regular-season picture, either as a starter or a reliever. Over two outings this spring, he’s allowed one run and has struck out five.
Manager Brian Snitker praised Toussaint’s performance while pointing out that young players do not develop and blossom all in the same manner. For some, things click early. It may take longer for others. Toussaint’s trajectory, which so far has produced a cumulative 5.97 ERA, is still a work in progress, but there’s optimism about Toussaint’s immediate future.
“He's a kid that takes care of himself. He trains, he studies, he does everything right,” Snitker said. “He's a professional in how he goes about things. He cares. There's just so much upside with the kid like that. Eventually he’s going to figure it out, he's going be very successful.”
Busy day on the mound
Ian Anderson’s start against the Red Sox had a little bit of everything, including the utilization of a new Spring Training rule that allows pitchers to end innings before three outs are recorded.
Anderson reached a 20-pitch threshold in the third inning, which allowed him to end that frame even though the Sox had only recorded two outs. Anderson then returned for the fourth and exited after logging the first out, a strikeout of Hunter Renfroe.
Anderson fanned seven and allowed three runs, including a second-inning solo homer to Renfroe that ended a string of four straight strikeouts by Sox batters to start the game.
“I think that's part of my game, striking guys out, but I would have liked to have been able to get some easier outs,” Anderson said. “I think that just comes from getting back into the swing of things, get more of a feel for different pitches in different situations.
“I feel good. The side sessions are going good. The ball was coming out good and everything felt really synced up, so I'm definitely happy.”
Soroka throws live BP
Mike Soroka took another step toward a return to game action when he threw a simulated game Saturday morning. It was his second in the past week and fourth live batting practice session this spring.
The right-hander, who tore his right Achilles on Aug. 3 last year, is still somewhat limited with his running exercises, but the expectation is he might make a start within the next couple of weeks. His timetable for returning to the rotation in the regular season is undetermined, but it’s possible he could start sometime in April.
He said it
“That rascal can hit. He knows he can hit. He has confidence when he steps in that batter's box … he's not going to be denied, which is awesome. He's got a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm, confidence. You put the bat on the ball like that kid ... man, it'd be hard to keep him out of the Major Leagues.” -- Snitker, on outfielder Trey Harris, who was reassigned to Minor League camp Friday
The Braves will employ a “bullpen game” when they meet the Rays for a 1:05 p.m. ET matchup at CoolToday Park on Sunday. Snitker said the start will likely go to either Luke Jackson or Grant Dayton. Tampa Bay will start right-hander Drew Strotman. The game will be broadcast on WCNN. Listen live on MLB Audio.