Braves hold off on announcing Game 3 starter vs. Phillies

As the Atlanta Braves boarded the plane for Philadelphia on Tuesday, they remained mum on their starting pitcher for Game 3 of the NL Division Series against the Phillies.

Unless the team goes with an opener out of the bullpen Wednesday -- which manager Brian Snitker said is an option -- it appears either 12-game winner Bryce Elder or rookie AJ Smith-Shawver will get the nod against Aaron Nola.

Elder, a first-time All-Star and mainstay of the injury-plagued rotation nearly the entire season, would seem the most logical choice.

But he appeared to tire down the stretch after throwing a career-high 174⅔ innings, opening the door for Smith-Shawver -- who has just six MLB appearances with five starts -- to take the mound with the best-of-five series tied at one game apiece.

"We've got some options," Snitker said. "Do we want to do an opener? Who would follow if we decide to do that? Or do we want to just go the traditional route? There's just a lot of different scenarios we're looking at."

The Braves have juggled the rotation all season, using 16 starters to help deal with long-term injuries to Kyle Wright and Max Fried.

Fried started Game 2, but Wright's lingering shoulder issues require surgery that likely will keep him out for all of next season. In addition, Charlie Morton was sidelined late in the season with a sprained finger and isn't on the roster for the NLDS, though the Braves are optimistic he can return in the next round if they advance.

Smith-Shawver, 20, rated by most evaluators as the Braves' top prospect, would have to deal with the inevitable butterflies of making his playoff debut in the raucous environment of Citizens Bank Park.

A year ago, after splitting the first two games in Atlanta, the Phillies eliminated the Braves with two dominant victories on their home field by a combined score of 17-4.

Now, riding the emotion of an improbable 5-4 victory in Game 2, the Braves are confident that the talented youngster would be up to the task if he's selected to start.

"He's impressed me from the start," reliever A.J. Minter said. "So I'm fully confident in him. I'm sure he'll be in there sooner or later in the game (no matter who starts). He's been killing it the last few months. His velocity is up, his command is up."

Smith-Shawver further impressed the Braves with his performance in an intrasquad game last week. He went five innings, surrendering just one hit with two walks and five strikeouts on 75 pitches.

"He was really impressive," Snitker said.