“It’s still a little tight,” Snitker said prior to Wednesday's series finale against the Royals at SunTrust Park. “We’ve got to take it day to day with him. All of the sudden things are starting to get stretched out a little bit. It might be a little longer than what we originally hoped.”
Webb posted a 1.39 ERA over the 36 appearances he made before being placed on the injured list on July 15 with a right elbow impingement. The only reason he wouldn’t have been considered the Braves’ most dependable reliever over the past few months was the fact that Swarzak had allowed just one run over 21 1/3 innings before being charged with three earned runs during the ugly eighth inning the since-demoted Wes Parsons ignited in Tuesday’s 5-4 loss to the Royals.
With the revelation Webb is not close to being cleared to throw, the Braves have further reason to address their bullpen needs before the July 31 Trade Deadline. The durability of Swarzak’s shoulder is a concern and closer Luke Jackson has looked far from reliable while allowing at least one run in 11 of his past 24 appearances.
So while the rotation could be upgraded with the addition of a frontline starter, it may be more important for the Braves to focus on acquiring at least one reliever. The addition of a coveted closer like Will Smith or Felipe Vazquez would be beneficial if either proves to be available for the right price. But it might be more likely equally beneficial to simply pursue other closing options like the Tigers’ Shane Greene or the Royals’ Ian Kennedy.
Jeremy Walker joined the Braves’ bullpen when his contract was purchased from Triple-A Gwinnett before Wednesday’s game. The 24-year-old right-hander has shown impressive command while recording 71 strikeouts, issuing eight walks and posting a 2.84 ERA over 69 2/3 combined innings with Double-A Mississippi and Gwinnett this season.
“If you put up the numbers, you get noticed,” Snitker said. “Then at some point in time, you get tried.”
Getting a call to the Majors this season seemed like a pipe dream for Walker, who started to turn things around for Class A Advanced Florida late last season and then struggled over six starts in the Arizona Fall League. This year’s conversion to a relief role has proven beneficial. He features a fastball (92-95 mph), a curveball and a still-developing changeup.
“You just have a different mentality going from starting to relieving,” Walker said. “You can focus for a shorter amount of time when you’re relieving.”
Walker found a familiar face when he arrived for his first day as a big leaguer. There’s a six-year age difference, but he graduated from Davie County (N.C.) High School, which also produced Royals All-Star Whit Merrifield. The two have worked out together the past few offseasons.
Dansby Swanson was removed from Wednesday’s lineup because of the right heel soreness that developed after he landed awkwardly on the first-base bag while attempting to beat out a seventh-inning grounder on Tuesday. He remained in the game and recorded one of the three consecutive ninth-inning singles off Kennedy.
Because the Braves think pitching under the hot sun would make Max Fried more susceptible to developing another blister, they will have him start Saturday night’s game in Philadelphia. Kevin Gausman was pushed back a day to Sunday’s start.