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2021 World Series: How will Braves replace Charlie Morton? Seven pitchers Atlanta could turn to vs. Astros

The Atlanta Braves won World Series Game 1 on Tuesday night vs. the Astros, but they suffered a notable loss in the process. Right-handed starter Charlie Morton was deemed out for the remainder of the series after a comebacker fractured his fibula. (Morton is expected to be ready to return to game action ahead of next spring.)

The Braves, then, are certain to make a roster move ahead of Game 2 to replace Morton with a different pitcher. Whom might that individual be? Atlanta could conceivably go with a pure reliever if they’re comfortable starting both Kyle Wright and Drew Smyly in Games 4 and 5. Alternatively, the Braves might decide it’s best to add another arm who can provide length, or perhaps even slot in as a starter.

To get a better feel for who might be in play for the Braves, we’ve highlighted seven candidates below who could join the postseason roster. Do note that this is more of an art than a science, and that the pitchers are presented in order of perceived likelihood. 

Webb appeared in a pair of games during the National League Championship Series, surrendering four runs on four hits across 1 2/3 innings. Ouch. The Braves removed him from their roster in advance of the World Series in favor of Wright, but it stands to reason they could see him as the next best option. If the Braves do add Webb, it’s worth remembering that he has reverse splits for his career, meaning that even though he throws right-handed, manager Brian Snitker could use him against lefties.

2. Spencer Strider

For whatever reason, the Braves haven’t featured Strider during the postseason. That’s too bad. He enjoyed a meteoric ascent during the regular season, beginning the year in A-ball and reaching the majors just in time for a pair of outings. Strider has an upper-90s fastball and a swing-and-miss slider. He was a starter for much of the season, as well, meaning he might be stretched out enough to provide length.

3. Richard Rodríguez

The Braves acquired Rodríguez at the trade deadline from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Unfortunately, he didn’t perform like his usual self, as he struck out just nine batters in 26 innings after the trade. Perhaps that’s a mere coincidence, but Rodríguez’s spin rate and swing-and-miss percentage fell off a cliff once Major League Baseball instituted its sticky-substance checks. The Braves might add him anyway, on the basis of him being an established veteran who still managed a 3.12 ERA in their colors.

Muller, a 6-foot-7 lefty, made eight starts for the Braves during the regular season. He accrued a 4.17 ERA (107 ERA+) and a 1.85 strikeout-to-walk ratio in those outings. Muller hasn’t pitched in the majors since August, however, and it’s unclear what he’s been up to since throwing three innings for Atlanta’s Triple-A team on Oct. 1. If he has been pitching in simulated games, he could give the Braves length and substance.

Toussaint started 10 times for the Braves during the regular season, including thrice in September. He had a 4.50 ERA (99 ERA+) and a 2.18 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Toussaint was used as a reliever with Atlanta’s Triple-A affiliate to end the season, and, as with Muller, it’s not clear if he’s been throwing in a meaningful capacity since. The Braves could probably call upon him as a one-inning reliever, but we’re hedging against him being viewed as more than that given the uncertainty. 

6. Bryce Elder

How’s this for a wild card? Elder has yet to make his big-league debut, but Atlanta’s fifth-rounder pick in 2020 had a brilliant minor-league season. In 25 starts across three levels, he accumulated a 2.21 ERA and a 2.00 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The odds are very much against him being added; we just felt he deserved some recognition.

Newcomb, who isn’t far removed from having good seasons as a starter and reliever, looks like a certain non-tender candidate this winter. He walked seven batters per nine during the regular season, and he didn’t even provide length along the way. There’s no argument for adding him over anyone else on this list.



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