Smyly shows worth with noteworthy spring

March 30th, 2021

In the Braves’ final game of Spring Training, left-hander got the start in their 5-3 win over the Red Sox on Tuesday at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers, Fla.

Smyly allowed two unearned runs on six hits in 4 2/3 innings. He struck out four and did not issue a walk. In four starts this spring, Smyly compiled a 3.29 ERA in 13 2/3 innings, with 16 strikeouts and just two walks. The highlight was last Thursday's outing against the Rays, when he allowed only one hit over five innings and struck out six.

“It was a good building block from my last start,” Smyly said of his outing against Boston. “I thought my fastball command was really good today, the best in the spring.”

Coming off a 2020 season in which he notched his lowest ERA since '15 -- albeit in a pandemic-shortened campaign -- Smyly looks to be an important addition to Atlanta’s rotation. In 26 1/3 innings for the Giants last year, Smyly struck out 42 batters, walked nine and posted a 3.42 ERA. That got the attention of the Braves, who signed Smyly to a one-year, $11 million deal in November.

Over the last few seasons, Smyly has been plagued by injuries -- including Tommy John surgery -- and did not pitch in 2017 or '18. Although some may have been surprised by Atlanta's signing given the southpaw's past health woes, Smyly has shown real signs of improvement as he enters his age-32 season.

From 2019-20, Smyly increased the average velocity on his four-seam fastball from 91.2 to 93.8 mph. His curveball also jumped from 77.4 to 80 mph. Smyly has continued to trend upward since joining the Braves, showing his ability to attack the zone and allow the ball to be put in play this spring.

“It’s just being able to throw early strikes and then making them swing,” Smyly said. “That’s the key to me, using the fastball on both sides of the plate.”

Smyly will open the season as the Braves’ No. 4 starter, behind Max Fried, Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson. He’ll make his regular-season debut on Monday in Washington against the Nationals. He could eventually slot in as the No. 5 starter once -- who made his spring debut and notched a save in Tuesday’s win -- makes his return from a torn right Achilles tendon he suffered last August.

“I feel really good about this club,” said manager Brian Snitker. “I felt really good when we added Drew and Charlie. … We’re going to need everybody.”