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Braves Minor League Recap: AJ Smith-Shawver returned to mound Sunday

AJ Smith-Shawver made his long awaited return to the mound on Sunday and pitched a gem for Rome. Dylan Dodd was also excellent in his first start following being sent back down.

AJ Smith-Shawver delivers a pitch for the Augusta GreenJackets
AJ Smith-Shawver
Image Credit: CRSA Photography

The Atlanta Braves had some interesting efforts down on the farm on Sunday, especially on the pitching side of things. AJ Smith-Shawver made his season debut, as well as his first High-A appearance, and pitched a gem. Dylan Dodd made his first minor league start of the season and pitched very well, and a trio of Augusta pitchers threw a shutout. The bats had some standout performances as well, with David McCabe hitting a homer, Luke Waddell having a multi-hit day in Triple-A, and Tyler Collins and Nacho Alvarez also among the standouts.

Memphis RedBirds 7, Gwinnett Stripers 4

Box Score

  • Luke Waddell, SS: 2-4, R
  • Hoy Park, 3B: 2-3, 2 BB, R, 2 RBI
  • Dylan Dodd, SP: 5.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 8 K

Dylan Dodd’s first minor league start of the year, after opening the year with the big club, went about as well as anyone could have hoped for going in. Dodd went one out shy of six shutout innings, allowing four hits and three walks while striking out eight batters on the day. Unfortunately the bullpen wasn’t able to give him much help. Connor Johnstone got the final out of the sixth and returned for the seventh - but allowed five runs while recording just one out in the seventh, and Jon Olczak allowed two additional runs in his inning and two thirds before a scoreless frame from Grant Holmes.

The Gwinnett offense was led by the left side of the infield on Sunday. Third baseman Hoy Park went 2-3 with a pair of walks, picking up a pair of RBI and scoring a run. At short, the recently promoted Luke Waddell went 2-4 with a run scored as well. Hendrik Clementina joined the infielders with a multi-hit game, going 2-5 in this one. Overall Gwinnett didn’t have problems getting on base - they had 10 hits and nine walks - but 3-17 with runners in scoring position left 15 runners on base, and all 10 of those hits were singles.

Chattanooga Lookouts 2, Mississippi Braves 1

Box Score

  • Landon Stephens, RF: 2-4, HR, R
  • Javier Valdes, C: 1-3, BB
  • Luis De Avila, SP: 3.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 4 BB, 6 K

Luis De Avila got the start and had an up and down game. De Avila lasted three and two thirds innings, allowing two runs on four hits. He struggled with his command in this one, resulting in four walks and 83 pitches in less than four full innings - but he did pick up six strikeouts and had a pickoff at first base. Hayden Deal followed with an inning and a third of scoreless baseball before a scoreless inning apiece from Coleman Huntley, Alex Segal, and Jake McSteen to finish this one off. In their four and a third innings, the four relievers used didn’t allow a hit or a walk, in addition to keeping Chattanooga off the scoreboard.

The offense had a tough game against hard throwing Reds prospect Joe Boyle and the rest of the Chattanooga pitching staff. The team managed just one run on four hits and two walks. Landon Stephens went 2-4 with a home run and Javier Valdes went 1-3 with a walk, accounting for three of the four hits and half of the walks from the team. A single from Drew Campbell and a walk by Drew Lugbauer would be the only other times Mississippi reached base in a game where they struck out 15 times.

Rome Braves 12, Bowling Green Hot Rods 3

Box Score

  • Nacho Alvarez, DH: 3-6, 2 R, 2 RBI, SB
  • Brandol Mezquita, RF: 2-5, 2B, 2 R, 2 RBI
  • Adam Zebrowski, C: 2-4, 2 BB, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, 3 R
  • Kevin Kilpatrick, CF: 2-4, 2 BB, 2 R, 2 SB
  • AJ Smith-Shawver, SP: 4.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K

AJ Smith-Shawver made his season debut on Sunday, as well as his High-A debut after ending last season a little early with an injury. AJSS had the type of game that showed you why he is so highly regarded, going one out shy of five scoreless innings and allowing three hits and a walk with eight punch outs. It took him just 78 pitches to do that, as he wasn’t just missing bats - but throwing strikes too. Rolddy Munoz followed and allowed a pair of unearned runs over two and a third innings. Joe Harvey was next with a scoreless inning, then Ronaldo Alessandro allowed a run over an inning of work.

This was a very hard game to pick a couple of offensive standouts for, but for good reason, as there were so many guys deserving of notice for their performance in this one. Adam Zebrowski went 2-4 with a homer, double, pair of walks, three runs scored, and three batted in. Spending the day at DH, Nacho Alvarez had a three-hit day, going 3-6 with two runs, two RBI, and a stolen base. Kevin Kilpatrick went 2-4 with a pair of walks, scored twice, and stole two bases out of the leadoff spot. Brandol Mezquita was 2-5 with a double, two runs scored, and two batted in. Even beyond those four there were deserving guys, like Kadon Morton (2-3, 2 BB) and Geraldo Quintero (1-4, BB, 3 R). Overall the team combined for 14 hits and eight walks, with eight starters collecting at least one hit and all nine reaching base safely.

Augusta GreenJackets 3, Down East Wood Ducks 0

Box Score

  • David McCabe, 3B: 3-4, 2B, HR, R, 2 RBI
  • Tyler Collins, CF: 1-4, 2B, R, RBI
  • Jorge Bautista, SP: 5 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K
  • Jared Johnson, RP: 3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K

Augusta picked up a combined shutout on Sunday with two guys doing the heavy lifting for them. Starter Jorge Bautista went five innings and allowed four hits and a pair of walks while striking out five. He was followed by a now-healthy Jared Johnson, who went the next three and allowed a hit and two walks while striking out six batters. Both of these guys have potential, particularly the hard-throwing Johnson, who has overcome some adversity to finally get back to 100% after being an overslot high school draftee back in 2019. Elison Joseph completed the shutout with one inning and one more strikeout, bringing the GreenJackets total to 12 on the day.

David McCabe was the star at the plate in this one, as the 2022 4th round pick went 3-4 with a homer and a double as he picked up two of the three RBI for Augusta as he showed off the power that the Braves were eyeing in last year’s draft. Speaking of players on Augusta who are now healthy, Tyler Collins went 1-4 with a double, scored a run, and picked up the other RBI. Francisco Floyd was the lone player besides McCabe with a multi-hit game, going 2-3 in this one - though Justin Janas also reached base more than once with a 1-3, BB day. Ambioris Tavarez went 0-3 but did draw a walk.

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