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Braves Minor League Recap: Spencer Schwellenbach makes professional debut

After more than a year and a half of waiting, Schwellenbach is finally appearing in games for the first time since his Tommy John surgery

NCAA Baseball Regional - Fayetteville Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The two Atlanta Braves A-ball affiliates opened up their seasons on Thursday night, and they both produced exciting games. The biggest news was the debut of 2021 first round pick Spencer Schwellenbach who had been sidelined since being drafted due to Tommy John surgery. The offensive heroics were provided in Rome by Ignacio Alvarez and in Augusta by EJ Exposito

(2-4) Gwinnett Stripers 0, (5-1) Norfolk Tides 3

Box Score

  • Vaughn Grissom, SS: 1-4, .400/.500/.760
  • Hoy Park, 2B: 1-2, BB, .182/.308/.182
  • Domingo Robles, SP: 4 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 2.25 ERA
  • Yacksel Rios, RP: 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 0.00 ERA

Gwinnett had a mid-series day game against the Norfolk Tides, and perhaps the Braves day game struggles from last season trickled down as the offense put up a paltry performance. Gwinnett recorded just two hits, both singles, and were shut out in what was an easy win for the Tides. To no one’s surprise Vaughn Grissom was one of those with a hit, and he has managed to hit safely in each of Gwinnett’s six games while not yet striking out.

The pitching staff for Gwinnett did not have the worst day out there, though they did have quite a few singles fall in safely which led to three runs. Starter Domingo Robles had the worst of that, allowing seven hits - all singles - across four innings pitched including loading the bases in the second and third innings. Robles escaped the former unharmed, but an RBI groundout in the third inning scored the lone run he allowed in the game. Grant Holmes was responsible for the other three hits and two runs that Norfolk recorded as he had his struggles in the fifth inning. Holmes allowed a walk and three more singles which scored those two runs before he was able to retire the side. Brian Moran, Yacksel Rios, and Roel Ramirez pitched the final three innings and each had identical lines of one hitless inning with a walk and two strikeouts.

(1-0) Rome Braves 3, (0-1) Greenville Drive 1

Box Score

  • Drake Baldwin, C: 0-2, 2 BB
  • Ignacio Alvarez, SS: 1-3, BB, 3 RBI
  • Keshawn Ogans, 3B: 1-2, 2 BB
  • Ian Mejia, SP: 5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 1.80 ERA
  • Rolddy Munoz, RP: 3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 0.00 ERA

Rome opened up their season on Thursday night with a win and Nacho Alvarez was the offensive star driving in all three of their runs. Greenville got on the board first in the top of the first inning, but the wildness of their starting pitcher helped the Braves as two walks and a wild pitch had Kevin Kilpatrick and Drake Baldwin in scoring position for the middle of the order. Rome didn’t turn this into a big inning, but an RBI groundout from Alvarez did tie the game at one where it would stay deadlocked until the fifth inning. There, Keshawn Ogans led off the inning with a bunt single and Baldwin drew his second walk of the game to once again set up Alvarez for an RBI chance. Alvarez came through with the big hit of the game, burning the right fielder with a fly ball double to score both runners and put Rome up for good.

Ian Mejia put together a solid season debut for Rome, giving them five innings and earning his first High-A win. Mejia allowed an RBI triple to Marcelo Mayer in the first inning but over his final four innings allowed just one more hit. Rolddy Munoz looked strong in his three innings of relief despite that success not showing up with strikeouts, as he was bending a nasty slider and was in control of the game the entire time he was on the mound. Tyler Owens had a bit of a scare when he allowed the first two batters to reach in the ninth inning, but he settled down to strand both runners and close out an opening night win.

(1-0) Augusta GreenJackets 9, (0-1) Columbia Fireflies 8 F/10

Box Score

  • Tyler Collins, CF: 3-6, 2 SB, .242/.336/.326
  • Ambioris Tavarez, SS: 2-6, RBI, .224/.371/.365
  • EJ Exposito, 2B: 3-4, HR, 2B, BB, 5 RBI, .279/.492/.372
  • Spencer Schwellenbach, SP: 1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 1 K, 0.00 ERA
  • Elison Joseph, RP: 2 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 0.00 ERA

Augusta played an exciting contest in their opening night win, and in true Single-A fashion it was a back-and-forth affair of relievers getting and then giving up leads. Augusta struck first in the game thanks to Jeremy Celedonio, who unloaded on the first pitch he saw in the second inning and crushed a solo home run. Augusta went scoreless until the sixth inning and fell behind 4-1, but EJ Exposito’s heroics were just getting started and a comeback was in store. First, Ethan Workinger got the game within one thanks to a home run of his own, a two run shot which scored Celedonio with two outs. After the bases were loaded on a hit batter and two walks, Exposito strolled to the plate, where he proceeded to deliver a two-run go ahead double. Two innings later Exposito put insurance on the board, sneaking a home run the opposite way over the tall wall in right field for two runs and a 7-4 lead. This lead did not last long, and the game went into extra innings where the first two batters struck out for Augusta. This brought up Exposito, who refused to lose this game and rocked a go-ahead single to score the designated runner. After Tyler Collins notched his third hit of the game to follow, Ambioris Tavarez delivered his second by blooping a ball over the shortstop to score Exposito for an important second run.

The big news of the day was Spencer Schwellenbach making his debut for Augusta, and while the start produced mediocre results his stuff looked fresh and he is in a good spot for someone who hasn’t pitched in a year and a half. Schwellenbach’s command just wasn’t on point, but he didn’t allow a hit or run over 1 ⅔ innings and struck out his final batter. The next step is knocking off the rust and extending him deeper into games where his three pitch mix should help him excel. Nick Martinez struggled in relief in the third inning, allowing four runs on four consecutive hits to put Augusta in a big hole. After this he settled in nicely and retired eight straight hitters to finish off his outing. Landon Harper came in for the sixth inning to protect the lead the offense had just given him, and he had a lot of success early and retired the first seven batters he faced. Then it all went haywire as he allowed three runs to tie the game in the eighth inning before an out on the basepaths brought the inning to a close. Elison Joseph pitched the final two frames, and while the control was shaky his stuff was too much for Single-A hitters to handle as he struck out three batters over two innings and got the win.

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