NORTH PORT, Fla. -- The quality bullpen depth the Braves added over the past few weeks has become even more valuable now that it appears Luke Jackson may need Tommy John surgery.
Before Saturday’s rain-shortened 10-0 loss to the Yankees, the Braves announced a recent MRI revealed damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in Jackson’s right elbow.
This diagnosis often leads to Tommy John surgery. Jackson will undergo further evaluation and treatment before possibly undergoing the procedure, which usually requires 12-18 months of rehab.
Jackson was on the upside of what has been turbulent stint with Atlanta. The 30-year-old right-hander posted 18 saves when temporarily forced into the closer’s role during the 2019 season. He posted a 6.84 ERA during the COVID-19-shortened 2020 season.
But the Braves stuck with Jackson and watched him produce a 1.98 ERA in 71 regular-season appearances last year. He held opponents scoreless in nine of his 11 appearances during the postseason and surrendered just one hit in three appearances (3 1/3 innings) during the World Series.
Jackson has been one of the most energizing and comical relievers the Braves have had over the past few years. Though his fellow bullpen mates don’t want to give him credit, it’s believed he came up with "The Night Shift," the name given to Atlanta’s bullpen during the 2021 playoffs.
With Jackson possibly out for the 2022 season, the Braves can feel even better about having recently added closer Kenley Jansen and veteran setup men Collin McHugh and Tyler Thornburg.
Jansen and McHugh are regarded as two of the game’s best relievers. As for Thornburg, he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2020 and has totaled just 49 2/3 innings since the end of the 2016 season. But the 33-year-old hurler has generated some encouraging numbers this spring, recording four strikeouts over 3 2/3 scoreless innings.
In Jackson's absence, Jansen’s primary setup men should be Will Smith, Tyler Matzek, A.J. Minter and McHugh. Veterans Darren O’Day and Thornburg add valuable experience to the relief corps.
Spencer Strider’s Opening Day roster bid took a hit when he allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits, including two homers, and two walks over 2 1/3 innings of Saturday’s loss.
Strider progressed from Low-A to the Majors during his first full professional season last year. His big league experience was limited to the postseason audition he was given during the final weekend of the regular season.
While Strider has tremendous upside, he could benefit from more seasoning at the Triple-A level. His 100 mph fastball is a weapon, but he didn’t truly begin developing his secondary pitches, a curveball and a changeup, before last summer.
Even with Jackson out, it may make sense to allow Strider to continue developing those pitches as a starter in the Minors. If necessary, the Braves could recall Jacob Webb to replace Jackson on the active roster.
With this week’s launch of the 2022 MLB ICONS Leadoff Series, Braves fans now can collect NFTs (non-fungible tokens) of Austin Riley, Dansby Swanson, Guillermo Heredia, Huascar Ynoa, Travis d’Arnaud and Jackson.
The NFTs are presented by Candy Digital, in partnership with MLB and MLB Players, Inc.
Some have described NFTs as baseball cards of the future. The stats on these “new-age cards" will be updated daily throughout the season.
The NFTs for those Braves players, as well as select players from across the other 29 MLB teams, will be exclusively included in packs being introduced on April 12 and April 19, beginning at 12 p.m. ET on each of those days at mlb.candy.com. Each pack will cost $50 and contain five NFTs.
Additional Braves players’ NFTs will be announced before the drop dates for future packs, which will take place on May 3, May 10, May 24, May 31, June 14 and June 21.