Schwellenbach's poise impresses Braves: 'There's a lot of upside' (2024)

June 5th, 2024

Schwellenbach's poise impresses Braves: 'There's a lot of upside' (1)

Molly Burkhardt

@mollyburkhardt

BOSTON -- A wedding, a Major League debut, a 24th birthday and a big league start at Fenway Park. The past week-plus has taken Spencer Schwellenbach on quite the ride.

On the heels of his brother’s wedding, Schwellenbach was told he’d be making the jump from Double-A Mississippi to Triple-A Gwinnett. The promotion was quickly changed to one of big league nature, with 23-year-old Schwellenbach making his Major League debut on May 29 against the Nationals.

Now 24 after celebrating a birthday two days following his debut, Schwellenbach became the third Braves pitcher in franchise history to make one of their first two career starts at Fenway Park. Schwellenbach battled through 4 2/3 innings on Wednesday, giving up six runs on seven hits in the Braves’ first shutout loss since May 12, 2023, a 9-0 defeat to the Red Sox to split the two-game series.

“Lot of strikes, kid is learning,” manager Brian Snitker said. “He doesn’t have a lot to fall back on yet. But the stuff was good, he threw a lot of strikes. Got hurt with some two-strike [pitches] … probably got too much of the plate. But he competes really well, stuff is good, and there’s a lot of upside there. It's just, like I said, he doesn't have a whole lot to draw back on experience-wise.”

Schwellenbach, ranked by MLB Pipeline as Atlanta’s No. 3 prospect, represents the latest pitcher in the revolving door that has become the Braves’ fifth rotation spot.

After losing Spencer Strider to a season-ending elbow injury, the Braves have deployed six pitchers out of that fifth spot. Those six have combined for a 6.75 ERA and a 1.75 WHIP across 60 innings over 13 starts in which the Braves are 4-9.

AJ Smith-Shawver made one start for the big league club, going 4 1/3 scoreless innings on May 23 before he was shut down the following day with a strained left oblique. Bryce Elder (6.46 ERA in five starts), Ray Kerr (9.39, two starts), Darius Vines (4.66, two starts) and Allan Winans (10.80, one start) make up the remaining four who have stepped up to spot start since Strider went down.

Despite the mixed results out of the fifth spot, the Braves’ rotation holds the fifth-best ERA (3.73) in the National League, behind just the Phillies, Dodgers, Cubs and Pirates.

One day prior to making his second career start, Schwellenbach took advantage of being at the storied Fenway Park and etched his name on the inside of the Green Monster. The following day, he had another less desirable “Welcome to Fenway” moment when Rafael Devers sent Schwellenbach’s 0-1 offering to the second row of the Monster in the second inning.

Devers essentially golfed the pitch, which was below the zone and just above the dirt. In the fifth inning, Schwellenbach delivered a 3-2 cutter at the top of the zone that Enmanuel Valdez found for an RBI double to right.

“I think just once you get the two strikes, you've got to be really good with your pitches,” Schwellenbach said. “These guys can [handle] anything you throw at them, and I just [need to be] smart with locations.”

Schwellenbach opened the game with a 1-2-3 inning before a traffic-filled second. After Devers’ homer led off the frame, Schwellenbach surrendered a single, a walk and an RBI double before recording an out. He allowed a third run on a sac fly before getting out of the inning. Schwellenbach retired six of the seven batters he faced through a clean third and fourth inning, before again running into trouble in the fifth.

Despite the final line, Schwellenbach has impressed the Braves not only with his stuff, but with his calm demeanor on the mound no matter the situation.

“That's probably the thing that impresses me most with that kid,” Snitker said. “I think he handles the situation, he doesn't seem to get sped up. [Fenway is] kind of an intimidating place to come and pitch. One of the impressive things in his first outing and this one, didn't look like the game sped up. It was just more command issues or whatever. And after the game he's good. There's a lot of upside and the intangibles I think are gonna be one of his strengths.”

Schwellenbach's poise impresses Braves: 'There's a lot of upside' (2024)

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