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Braves set to begin 2023 season against the Nationals

Atlanta looks to get the season off on a good note.

MLB: NLDS-Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta Braves Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

The 2023 regular season will officially begin for the Atlanta Braves on Thursday afternoon when they begin a three-game series in Washington against the Nationals. The Braves come into the season with high expectations and a loaded, young roster. Atlanta is looking for a sixth straight division title and another long postseason run.

The Braves entered the spring with essentially with three question marks, and only one of them worked out the way many were expecting. Eddie Rosario has looked a bit more like his old self after a lost 2022 season that included a two-month stay on the Injured List after eye surgery. Atlanta brought in a lot of options for left field, but it appears that it will be Rosario who gets the first crack to lock down the job.

Coming into camp, it looked like the competition for the final rotation spot would come down to one of Ian Anderson, Bryce Elder or Michael Soroka. However, it turned out that the correct answer was, in this case, “none of the above.” Anderson and Elder were both optioned to Triple-A about halfway through the spring. Soroka’s start to the spring was delayed by a hamstring strain that took him out of the running. Rookie left-handers Jared Shuster and Dylan Dodd emerged with strong March performances and quickly moved to the front of the competition. Shuster will start the third game of the season, taking the place of Kyle Wright, who will begin the regular season on the Injured List. Dodd is scheduled to join the active roster on April 4 and pitch against the Cardinals in St. Louis.

Perhaps the biggest swerve job for the team came at shortstop, where the Braves had to replace Dansby Swanson, who left in free agency for the Cubs. What was expected to be a competition between Vaughn Grissom and Orlando Arcia first ostensibly turned into one between Grissom and Braden Shewmake. But, when it looked (from the outside) like Atlanta would break camp with one of the youngsters, they optioned them both to Gwinnett and elected to give the job to Arcia.

The Nationals are coming off of a season in which they lost 107 games and finished last in the NL East for the third straight season. Washington added veterans Corey Dickerson, Jeimer Candelario and Dominic Smith during the offseason on make good one year deals. They will join a core of catcher Keibert Ruiz, shortstop CJ Abrams and second baseman Luis Garcia.

Thursday, March 30, 1:05 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast, MLB Network)

Max Fried (2022: 30 GS, 185.1 IP, 23.2 K%, 4.4 BB%, 51.2 GB%, 2.48 ERA, 2.70 FIP)

Max Fried will make his third consecutive Opening Day start for the Braves on Thursday. Fried is coming off of a banner season in which he finished second in the NL Cy Young race. Fried made three starts against the Nationals last season, where he allowed nine runs in 18 combined innings, albeit with a much nicer 1.72 FIP and 3.20 xFIP compared to that 4.50 ERA.

Patrick Corbin (2022: 31 GS, 152.2 IP, 18.0 K%, 6.9 BB%, 44.2 GB%, 6.31 ERA, 4.84 FIP)

Patrick Corbin will get the nod for the Nationals in Thursday’s opener. He put together another disappointing season in 2022 where he allowed a whopping 210 hits and 27 home runs in 152 2/3 innings. He was hit hard in four starts against the Braves, where he allowed 27 hits and 15 earned runs in just 14 1/3 innings. (The xFIP was a non-horrible 3.79 in those starts, but the rest was awful.) To make it even worse, Corbin is owed just under $60 million through the 2024 season.

Saturday, April 1, 4:05 p.m. ET (Bally Sports Southeast)

Spencer Strider (31 G, 20 GS, 131.2 IP, 38.3 K%, 8.5 BB%, 40.3 GB%, 2.67 ERA, 1.83 FIP)

After a rain date off day on Friday, the series will continue Saturday with Spencer Strider scheduled to make his season debut. Strider put together an all-time debut season for the Braves in 2022 and finished second in the NL Rookie of the Year voting to teammate Michael Harris II. Strider became the fastest player ever to reach 200 strikeouts and it will be interesting to see what kind of numbers he can put up with a full season in the rotation.

Strider made two starts and a relief appearance against Washington last year and wasn’t quite Strider-esque, as one of his few clunker starts came against them. Altogether, he had a 5.54 ERA / 3.96 FIP / 3.33 xFIP against them, which is surprising given how good he was against basically everyone else and how weak their roster is.

Josiah Gray (28 GS, 148.2 IP, 23.7 K%, 10.2 BB%, 33.0 GB%, 5.02 ERA, 5.86 FIP)

The Nationals will counter with right-hander Josiah Gray, who struggled in his first full season in the majors, but was tough on Atlanta in two outings. Over two starts against the Braves, Gray allowed just three hits and one run in 11 innings, though he managed just seven strikeouts to five walks in those games. He has worked to add a cutter to his arsenal and was lights out during the spring, allowing just one run over 16 1/3 innings. The Braves have lost three of the four games in which they’ve faced Gray to this point.

Sunday, April 2, 1:35 p.m. ET (Bally Sports South, MLB Network)

Jared Shuster (2022 Triple-A: 10 G, 9 GS, 48.2 IP, 19.4 K%, 8.0 BB%, 45.1 GB%, 4.25 ERA, 5.62 FIP)

Sunday’s game will feature a good matchup against a couple of young left-handers. 2020 first round pick Jared Shuster will make his major league debut for Atlanta. Shuster split the 2022 season between Mississippi and Gwinnett and struggled overall after his promotion to Triple-A. However, he turned heads with his performance this spring and came out of nowhere to claim a spot in the rotation after allowing just three runs over 18 2/3 innings, with two of those runs coming in his final appearance.

MacKenzie Gore (2022 SDP: 16 G, 13 GS, 70.0 IP, 23.3 K%, 12.0 BB%, 37.6 GB%, 4.50 ERA, 4.11 FIP)

MacKenzie Gore won’t be making his major league debut Sunday, but he will be appearing in his first game as a member of the Nationals. Gore came over from the Padres in the Juan Soto trade and sat out the remainder of the 2022 season due to injury. He had an up and down spring, but will be looking to show that he can be a part of the future for the Nationals going forward. At this point, Gore looks to be more “expected to be solid” than “eye-popping,” but he has an intriguing, tunneled fastball-curve combo that could be fun to watch.

Get your tickets for the Braves’ home opener through StubHub to see Spencer Strider make his 2023 season debut.

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