AP NEWS

Braves pitching staff springing leaks early in camp

February 28, 2019
FILE - In this Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019 photo, Atlanta Braves pitcher Touki Toussaint gets in some early morning work during spring training baseball practice in Kissimmee, Fla. There's some uncertainty to the competition for the Atlanta Braves’ fifth starter. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP, File)

KISSIMMEE, Fla. (AP) — The fifth spot in the Atlanta Braves’ pitching rotation was open when spring training began.

Now it is wide-open, and it might not be the only spot.

Right-hander Touki Toussaint didn’t do anything to help his bid for the rotation Thursday, giving up five runs in one inning in his second spring start, a 7-6 loss to the Detroit Tigers.

Toussaint, a 22-year-old right-hander who started five games for the Braves late last season and got their only postseason win in relief, is considered a strong candidate for the fifth spot.

But right-handers Mike Foltynewicz and Kevin Gausman have encountered arm problems early in camp along with two of the other rotation candidates. So far, Foltynewicz’s sore elbow and Gausman’s sore shoulder are considered minor setbacks.

“I don’t know that there’s any more or less than there was before,” manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s early camp. I’m sure everybody goes through that. That’s why you need a lot of ’em.”

The first six Tigers to face Toussaint got on base Thursday and Dustin Peterson, a former Braves prospect, hit a three-run home run.

“Today was one of those days they got me early and it happens,” Toussaint said. “This was my first big day. There’s no excuse.”

At least he is healthy.

“That’s all spring training is for,” he said. “I made some pitches and they hit ’em. I threw everything I wanted for strikes. I hit a guy on a breaking ball, walked one. But I felt good.”

“He’s fine, so that’s the big thing,” Snitker said. “I saw enough last year to know what the kid’s capable of, but he’s got to go out and improve himself.”

Toussaint came to camp in competition with Mike Soroka and Luis Gohara for the fifth spot behind Foltynewicz, Gausman, Julio Teheran and Sean Newcomb. Each of those four started at least 30 games last season, although 21 of Gausman’s starts came with Baltimore.

Foltynewicz, who pitched two innings in his first spring start Sunday, was scratched from Friday’s start. Gausman has yet to pitch. Gohara has been held out because of a sore elbow, although the 22-year-old left-hander has been throwing on the side.

Soroka, who came to camp as the favorite for the fifth spot if he could show he was over the shoulder problems that ended his season last June, threw lightly on the side Thursday. The Braves are taking a cautious approach with the 21-year-old right-hander, who went 2-1 in five starts as a rookie.

“We’re going to need him before the year is over. That’s why we want to make sure we go by the proper procedures right now,” Snitker said. “We just want to get him right and get him pitching. He missed a significant amount last year.”

NOTES: Dansby Swanson and new third baseman Josh Donaldson are expected to make their spring debuts in Friday’s exhibition game against the Toronto Blue Jays. Swanson had off-season surgery on his left wrist after starting 132 games as the Braves’ shortstop last season. Donaldson, the former American League MVP who played in only 52 games last year because of a strained calf muscle, signed a one-year, $23 million contract with the Braves in November.

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