The Atlanta Braves activated right-handed reliever Chris Martin from the injured list on Thursday, prior to their weekend series against the Philadelphia Phillies. While Martin is a valuable member of Atlanta's bullpen, the more notable aspect of his activation was the corresponding move: the Braves optioning right-handed starter Kyle Wright.
Wright's demotion to the alternate site was deserved. He had failed to work past the fourth inning in three of his four starts, and not because of workload management reasons. Rather, he had a 7.20 ERA and he had recorded four more walks (16) than strikeouts (12). He can blame that statistic on his start last Friday, during which he walked six of the 16 batters he faced.
Wright's farming out also means that the Braves have just one starter in their rotation who was there on Opening Day, with that being Max Fried. Let's recap what happened to the other four:
- Mike Soroka will miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn Achilles tendon. The injury occurred during his third start.
- Mike Foltynewicz was designated for assignment after one start. He passed through waivers and remains in the organization.
- Sean Newcomb was optioned after making four starts. His 17 runs allowed remains the second-highest total on the Braves roster.
Factor in veteran free-agent signing Cole Hamels' continued absence because of arm woes, and the Braves are down a full rotation through injury and poor performance.
Wright's failure to stick is particularly disheartening. The Braves likely saw him being an important part of their rotation by now when they made him the fifth pick in 2017. Instead, he heads down with a career 7.25 ERA (63 ERA+) in 15 career appearances, including eight starts.
Arguably the most frustrating aspect for Wright and the Braves is that his struggles come after making adjustments to his pitch mix. He'd taken to using his slider/cutter as his primary pitch, and had made a few other tweaks, including mixing in his sinker and changeup more frequently. Wright labored with his command, and seemed unwilling to challenge hitters with his fastball.
Now, Wright will head to the alternate site, where the Braves hope he can regain confidence and figure out a formula that works. Given what Atlanta's rotation looks like right now -- Touki Toussaint has a 7.97 ERA, and the Braves are giving starts to Robbie Erlin and Josh Tomlin -- he'll probably get another chance before the season is out.