Inbox: Will young arms be able to get a shot?

Beat reporter Mark Bowman answers questions from Braves fans

May 8th, 2017

Do you think the $32.5 million the Braves paid the three veteran starting pitchers (, R.A. Dickey and ) will prevent prospects like and from coming up when ready?

-- @b_outliers

For this unique stage in the rebuild to develop effectively, the Braves had to enter this season committed to remembering these three veterans starters were acquired to serve as one-year bridges and not road blocks. At no point should their presence or salaries blind the team from remaining focus on the long-term plan, which will truly start to materialize once Sims, Newcomb, and other rising starting-pitching prospects reach Atlanta.

Newcomb, Sims, Fried and the others will inevitably experience growing pains through the early portion of their big league careers. So as the Braves aim to put a playoff-caliber team on the field within the next couple of seasons, it would seem prudent to insert at least a couple of these pitchers in Atlanta's rotation at some point this year with the hope that the experience gained in 2017 might lessen the severity of the growing pains felt in '18 or '19 .

Of course, now that the $32.5 million has been committed, the Braves have to hope at least one or two of these veteran starters have some trade value if a point is reached where there's a need to open a rotation spot. Dickey and Garcia have at least come close to meeting the expectations of a middle-of-the-rotation innings eater. But if Colon continues down this same path, there will no longer be anything cute about the $12.5 million contract given to a 43-year-old pitcher.

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When do you think Sims will get a chance at the big league level, given his early success?

-- @kingwilliam_4

Sims has put himself back on the map in authoritative fashion, as he has produced a 2.83 ERA through five starts for Triple-A Gwinnett. He's still missing some bats, as his 8.8 strikeouts per nine innings attests. But more importantly, the young right-hander has harnessed his command. His 1.9 walks per nine innings stands as a significant improvement to the 5.9 mark he produced while pitching for both Gwinnett and Double-A Mississippi last year.

After having to seemingly adjust to a new pitching coach and coordinator on an annual basis over the past few years, Sims has seemingly found great comfort having Minor League pitching coordinators Dom Chiti and Dave Wallace back in the Braves' system. Don't be surprised if this suburban Atlanta native is the first prospect to get a crack in Atlanta's rotation this summer.

Last week, we were clamoring about Newcomb after he notched 11 strikeouts over seven scoreless innings in Pawtucket. But then the physically-gifted southpaw turned around and needed 100 pitches to complete just four innings on Saturday in Charlotte. Unfortunately, this has become a common sequence of events for the 23-year-old hurler, who will remain in the Minors until he proves he can consistently repeat his big-body delivery on a game-to-game -- or even inning-to-inning -- basis.

Does it seem a bit counterproductive to make Chuck Hernandez the pitching coach, given his specialty is working with young pitchers -- and then add three veterans to the starting rotation?

-- @jase1129

Look, from the moment the Braves parted ways with former pitching coach Roger McDowell in October, I think I made it quite clear that I didn't agree with the decision. McDowell's tough-love approach might have rubbed some the wrong way, but over the past week I've heard players and coaches say they miss that ability he had to develop sound game plans via the daily dedication he provided to breaking down video and analyzing scouting reports.

The Braves felt a change was necessary and indicated they didn't like the way McDowell developed young pitchers. So, yeah, it was odd to see them add three short-term veterans to their rotation and then give the big league pitching coach job to Hernandez. You can certainly argue it would have made more sense to keep Hernandez in the role as Minor League pitching coordinator, where he could have continued having a daily impact on the developments of Newcomb, Fried, Sims, Kolby Allard, Mike Soroka and the other prospects who could be in Atlanta at any point within the next two seasons.

Had McDowell stayed, he would have had a chance to work with essentially the same bullpen he handled last year, when and exceeded expectations over the season's final few months. At the same time, he could have extended his long working relationship with . The two butted heads, but when you combine last year's rebound with what we've seen these past couple of weeks, there's certainly reason to believe Teheran was better when McDowell was here.

Is it time to send Dansby Swanson down to get his head straight and his confidence back?

-- @bobbrietzke

Not yet, but Swanson certainly didn't quiet his detractors after striking out in five of his 10 at-bats in this past weekend's series against the Cardinals. He delivered an RBI single during Sunday's seventh inning and then looked at a called third strike with two on and one out in the 11th inning. Such is life for a talented 23-year-old player who tallied just 569 plate appearances in the Minors before the Braves called him up directly from Double-A last year.

As Swanson has slashed .151/.222/.217 through this season's first 117 plate appearances, he has encountered some bad luck. But if his numbers are similar near the end of May, the Braves may have no choice to do what's best for Swanson's future by giving him a chance to get right at the Triple-A level.