Inbox: What is impact of using Wisler in relief?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers Braves fans' questions

April 18th, 2016

Are you worried about Fredi Gonzalez using a starting pitcher like Matt Wisler out of the bullpen? Do you think it displeased the front office?

-- Jordan C., Greenville, S.C.

As the Braves started the season 0-9, the front office told Gonzalez to essentially treat every game as if it was a do-or-die postseason situation. Gonzalez did just that and also protected Arodys Vizcaino's future when he summoned Tuesday's scheduled starter, Wisler, out of the bullpen to work a perfect 10th inning to conclude Sunday's 6-5 win over the Marlins.

With Vizcaino and Chris Withrow both essentially unavailable, Gonzalez went into Sunday's game with five relievers available to preserve the lead Jhoulys Chacin held when he exited with one out in the sixth inning. The two available left-handers -- Hunter Cervenka and Eric O'Flaherty -- combined to face three batters and record one out. Jason Grilli was an out (or a diving catch from Nick Markakis) away from notching his second save in less than 24 hours.

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Just as Gonzalez could not predict that Grilli would surrender a game-tying single with two outs in the ninth, he didn't know how frequently he was going to have to use Vizcaino after "getting him some work" on Thursday and then calling on him to throw 35 pitches in a four-out save on Friday.

Gonzalez was forced to react to these developments on Sunday, but he was able to breathe a sigh of relief when Wisler needed just six pitches to complete the perfect frame. The work might have actually been less taxing than the side session the young pitcher would have completed on Sunday.

Now the Braves will start Julio Teheran on regular rest on Tuesday and push Wisler back two days to Thursday, when he will match up against Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers.

If Hector Olivera misses an extended amount of time, will the Braves keep Mallex Smith at the big league level?

-- John H., Valdosta, Ga.

Regardless of the punishment handed down to Olivera for potentially violating MLB's Joint Domestic Violence Policy, Smith's stay at the Major League level will be more directly influenced by when Ender Inciarte returns from the disabled list. If Inciarte is ready to return when he is eligible for activation on Saturday, the Braves might opt to send Smith to the Minors for more seasoning. Jace Peterson, Kelly Johnson, Jeff Francoeur and Drew Stubbs are all available to fill the left-field void created by Olivera's absence.

Do you see Freddie Freeman getting back on track this season?

-- Reid G., Frisco, Texas

When a visibly frustrated Freeman discussed his lack of bat speed before sitting out Thursday's series finale against the Nationals, he had struck out in nine of 33 plate appearances and was maddened by his inability to get around on pitches that he would have routinely pulled in the past. As he went 4-for-11 with a double during this past weekend's series in Miami, he struck out just twice and saw seven of the eight balls he put in play travel up the middle or to the right side.

Freeman might not have completely distanced himself from his early struggles, which could be a result of the fact that right wrist issues hindered his normal offseason preparations. But he seemed to make some strides in Miami. If he stays healthy, I don't think there is much reason to worry about his relatively simple swing.

When can we expect to see Mike Foltynewicz back in Atlanta?

-- Colby M., Somerset, Ky.

If Foltynewicz pitches effectively during Monday night's start against Durham, there's a chance he could join Atlanta's rotation during this upcoming weekend's series against the Mets. But it sounds like the Braves will wait at least one more week to promote Foltynewicz, who notched seven strikeouts over six scoreless innings against Durham last week, before leaving his Triple-A Gwinnett teammates for a few days to attend his grandmother's funeral.

As things stand, Foltynewicz will likely replace Williams Perez in the rotation. Along with potentially upgrading the rotation, Perez could also provide some much-needed depth in the bullpen.

How are the Braves going to be any better next year if payroll doesn't increase?

-- Steve V., Chattanooga, Tenn.

While the Braves have not directly said they plan to add to their payroll next year, they have certainly provided strong indication that they will have the option to shop some high-dollar aisles when they peruse the free-agent and trade markets during the offseason.

Though the Braves have said they want to be competitive this season, most of the financially motivated moves they have made over the past year have been directed toward gaining more financial flexibility for the 2017 season. With the contract swap between the Braves and the Indians, Atlanta took on more money this year (Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher) to simply rid itself of the $9 million Chris Johnson would have been guaranteed next year.

It remains to be seen what the Braves will do with the significant financial flexibility they will possess. But they will at least have the means to upgrade their product as they attempt to make an immediate splash with their move to SunTrust Park.