Braves pitching prospect Spencer Schwellenbach strikes out 5 in mixed MLB debut

ATLANTA (AP) — Spencer Schwellenbach had mixed results in his big league debut with the Atlanta Braves.

Schwellenbach, one of the Braves' top pitching prospects, made the leap from Double-A to the MLB on Wednesday and lasted five innings. The 23-year-old right-handler gave up three runs and threw 88 pitches, 60 for strikes, and allowed five hits with five strikeouts and a walk. He left the game with the Braves trailing the Washington Nationals 3-1.

All the damage against Schwellenbach came on a three-run homer by Lane Thomas in the fifth. With one out and runners on first and second, Thomas lifted a fly ball 385 feet into the Nationals bullpen in left field.

After a leadoff double in the fifth, Schwellenbach hit the Nationals' Jacob Young in the head with a fastball when the No. 9 hitter squared to bunt. Young fell, face down, at the plate and Schwellenbach immediately put both hands on his head and walked toward home plate.

Young was down for a minute, but stayed in the game. Two batters later, Thomas hit his home run.

Schwellenbach pitched out of trouble in the second inning. Luis García Jr. led off with a single and ended up on third after an error by right fielder Adam Duvall. He retired Kelbert Ruiz and Eddie Roasrio, and after a walk, struck out Eddie Rosario to end the threat. He also stranded a runner at third base in the fourth inning, inducing a line drive out to shortstop Orlando Arcia by Ildemaro Vargas.

Schwellenbach was a second-round draft pick of the Braves in 2021 out of Nebraska, where he pitched and was a position player. In the Braves minor league system, he has been used strictly as a pitcher. He had Tommy John surgery in 2021 and missed the 2022 season.

Before Wednesday, Schwellenbach had pitched only twice in Double-A — and never in Triple-A. He became the first Braves starter to skip Triple-A since Randall Delgado in 2021. Over eight games with High-A Rome and Double-A Mississippi, Schwellenbach was 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA, with 51 strikeouts in 45 innings.

“We’re going to continue to do anything we can to mix and match things,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said Tuesday. “Guys are going to get opportunities. They’re getting them a lot quicker now than they used to, that’s for sure.”

The first four spots in the Braves rotation are set with Chris Sale, Reynaldo López, Max Fried and Charlie Morton, but the fifth position appears to be up for grabs.



Bill Trocchi, The Associated Press