The Braves have activated two of the key figures from last year’s World Series run, outfielder Eddie Rosario and left-hander Tyler Matzek, from the injured list, the team announced today. To make room on the active roster, the club optioned infielder Mike Ford to Triple-A Gwinnett and designated right-hander Silvino Bracho for assignment.
While the Braves have been one of the hottest teams in baseball of late, Rosario’s and Matzek’s performances to open the season seemed to be emblematic of a bit of a championship hangover for an Atlanta squad that limped out of the gate. Both players’ issues proved the result of injuries, however: Rosario’s swelling in his right retina that required laser surgery and Matzek’s left shoulder inflammation that led to a significant drop in velocity.
Indeed, each will be looking to improve on rather unsightly lines, particularly by their recently elevated standards. In 49 trips to the plate in April, Rosario slashed an anemic .068/.163/.091 — good for a -24 wRC+ — before hitting the IL, while Matzek had seen his ERA climb from 2.57 last year to 5.06 through his first 10 2/3 innings this year that included an alarming dip in his strikeout rate (from 29.2% in 2021 to 21.3% in 2022) and an alarming spike in his walk rate (from 14% to 19.2%).
Should each return in top form, the already red-hot Braves — 23-7 since June 1st — could reach another gear in what figures to be a stellar race in the NL East. Matzek should slide back into a bullpen that leads the majors with 4.7 fWAR with little issue, but Rosario’s return could lead to something of a logjam in the outfield. When healthy, Ronald Acuña Jr. is the first name on Brian Snitker’s lineup card, and Michael Harris II has been a revelation in center field since a late-May call-up. Adam Duvall, who left Saturday’s game in Cincinnati after taking a pitch off the hand, has seen the bulk of the at-bats in left since Harris’ arrival, and Marcell Ozuna has primarily slotted in at DH, playing in left only on an as-needed basis.
Neither Duvall nor Ozuna has gotten off to a particularly hot start, however. Ozuna, who’s slashing .227/.280/.420, has hit for power and little else, while Duvall, who’s slashing a meager .205/.272/.376, has provided much-needed defensive versatility but has yet to show the level of power that’s been his calling card in the past. Too much talent vying for too few at-bats is a good problem to have, of course, but Snitker may have to get creative to get everyone in the lineup on a regular basis.
Ford, who logged only a walk in five trips to the plate since the Braves claimed him from the Mariners a few weeks ago, will return to the minors as organizational depth. If he clears waivers, Bracho, who covered a single scoreless inning in his stint with Atlanta, will likely do the same. Ford has logged a .194/.306/.395 career batting line in parts of four minor league seasons with the Yankees, Giants, Mariners, and Braves. Bracho, who had pitched in five prior seasons with the Diamondbacks, owns a career 4.76 ERA in 90 2/3 innings across 93 appearances.