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Braves Notes: Facing Shohei Ohtani, injury updates, Nicky Lopez and more

News and notes from pregame Monday before the Braves take on the Angels.

Chicago White Sox v Atlanta Braves Photo by Brandon Sloter/Image Of Sport/Getty Images

ATLANTA — The Major League Baseball season is a marathon and while teams don’t like to weight any matchup more than another, there is some extra juice when a player like Shohei Ohtani comes to town. Ohtani isn’t scheduled to pitch in the series, but he’s also leading the majors with 39 home runs.

“I know he’s a fun guy to watch and be on the field with,” Brian Snitker said before Monday’s game. It’s just a special, special talent, that’s for sure. I dont’ think you’re going to see many guys like that come into the game. Got two of the better or exciting players in baseball that are going to be competing against each other here in the next three days.”

Ohtani and Ronald Acuña Jr. are currently the favorites to take home the MVP Awards in the American and National Leagues. We are often in awe being able to watch Acuña on an everyday basis, but it shouldn’t be lost on anyone what Ohtani is able to do as a two-way player.

“I can’t even imagine how hard that is for a person, the physical demands, mental demands, expectations, everything that player goes through is something else,” Snitker said of Ohtani. “I don’t think people realize the physicality of doing both because there’s a reason why those guys pitch once every five days. It takes them that long to recover. He’s going out running the bases and hitting every day and it takes a special athlete to be able to pull that off.”

Nicky Lopez addition

The Braves added some infield depth with the addition of Nicky Lopez in a trade with the Kansas City Royals Sunday evening. Snitker said that he received plenty of good reports on Lopez from people with the Royals.

“Just some protection in the infield and the versatility,” Snitker said of what Lopez brings to the team. “We’ve got some really good reports from all the guys in Kansas City last night. Just a really good defender. Can play all of them and I think it’s just a good piece to have going forward.”

Injury updates

Snitker said that Max Fried came in feeling good after his final rehab appearance with Gwinnett. He is scheduled to throw a side session either Monday or Tuesday and could rejoin the rotation as soon as this weekend in Chicago.

“He’s feeling good,” Snitker said of Fried. “He’ll throw his side here today or tomorrow and we’ll probably see more how he is, but reports are really good. I think we got through it really well.”

Atlanta is currently 31 games above .500 with Fried having made just five starts. That is a significant piece to get back into the rotation.

A.J. Minter was reinstated from the injured list prior to Monday’s game and there is also some good news on Atlanta’s other left-handed bullpen arm. Dylan Lee last pitched on May 16 before going on the injured list with left shoulder inflammation. Snitker said that Lee will face hitters Tuesday and could soon go on a rehab assignment.

“He’s going to throw to hitters tomorrow,” Snitker said. “He’ll have an up and down tomorrow and hopefully if he comes out of that, then he should be able to go out on a rehab. So he’s headed in the right direction.”

Bullpen arms peaking at the right time

Atlanta enters Monday’s game with the best bullpen ERA in the National League, but it hasn’t always been pretty. Ben Heller, Taylor Hearn and Collin McHugh combined to allow 10 runs in just 1 2/3 innings during the Braves’ sweep of the Brewers over the weekend. Their struggles overshadowed some good performance by the rest of the relief staff.

Hearn was traded to Kansas City for Lopez, and getting Minter back will be a huge boost. We have also seen guys like Joe Jimenez and Kirby Yates starting to round into form.

Since the start of June, Jimenez has a 0.93 ERA and a 1.68 FIP across 18 appearances. His velocity has ticked back up and he is looking more like the pitcher Atlanta envisioned when they acquired him from Detroit this past offseason.

“I just think he was slowed by the back coming out of spring training,” Snitker said of Jimenez. “I look at it now, he’s peaking at the right time, that’s for sure. So he’s been really good. That’s a great piece to get and have him start pitching the way he’s capable.”

While Minter was out, Yates has seen more high leverage spots. He has a 3.29 ERA and a 3.86 FIP over his last 14 games.

“He’s been really good too. Been really efficient. Stuff’s been really good,” Snitker said. “It’s just tough when these guys miss so much time. It’s like everything else. We get really impatient, wanting it to be really good right now and it just doesn’t work that way. As he’s getting more work, he’s been better and better.”

Charlie Culberson

With the arrival of Lopez, the Braves designated Charlie Culberson for assignment for the second time. Culberson had two lengthy stints on the active roster, but only appeared in one game. While his impact on the field was limited, Snitker made it clear how much of an impact he had off the field and in the clubhouse.

“The makeup is what makes Charlie Culberson him. How he understands his role. I think the opportunity that he got instead of staying in Triple A. I’m sure he would have loved to have played more, but he adds a lot with just his presence and that’s the kind of individual he is and the person that he is.”

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