Braves pleased despite mixed debut for Spencer Schwellenbach

ATLANTA -- Spencer Schwellenbach had mixed results in his big league debut with the Atlanta Braves.

Schwellenbach, one of the Braves' top pitching prospects, made the leap from Double-A to the majors Wednesday night and lasted five innings. The 23-year-old right-handler gave up three runs and threw 88 pitches, 60 for strikes, and allowed five hits with five strikeouts and a walk. He left the game with the Braves trailing Washington 3-1. The Nationals won the game 7-2.

"I thought his stuff was real good," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He handled himself really well, I thought. It was very impressive, I thought."

All the damage against Schwellenbach came on a three-run homer by Lane Thomas in the fifth. With one out and runners on first and second, Thomas lifted a fly ball 385 feet into the Nationals bullpen in left field.

After a leadoff double in the fifth, Schwellenbach hit the Nationals' Jacob Young in the head with a fastball when the No. 9 hitter squared to bunt. Young fell, face down, at the plate and Schwellenbach immediately put both hands on his head and walked toward home plate.

"That was scary for sure," Schwellenbach said. "Obviously, very happy that he stayed in the game and that nothing was wrong with him. They came out and talked to me, just kind of got me settled down and it helped for sure. I was able to get back out there and keep going."

Young was down for a minute, but stayed in the game.

"Obviously not his fault. Obviously not intentional," Young said. Thankfully it wasn't bad."

Two batters later, Thomas hit his home run.

Schwellenbach pitched out of trouble in the second inning. Luis García Jr. led off with a single and ended up on third after an error by right fielder Adam Duvall. He retired Keibert Ruiz and after a walk, struck out Eddie Rosario to end the threat. He also stranded a runner at third base in the fourth inning, inducing a line drive out to shortstop Orlando Arcia by Ildemaro Vargas.

"That's kind of the stuff you're looking at with young guys when they come up," Snitker said. "(Spencer) Strider was the same way. Just had an innate ability to kind of keep everything in perspective and not let the game speed up on him. I thought he did a really nice job."

Schwellenbach was a second-round draft pick of the Braves in 2021 out of Nebraska, where he pitched and was a position player. In the Braves' minor league system, he has been used strictly as a pitcher. He had Tommy John surgery in 2021 and missed the 2022 season.

Schwellenbach was rated this year by ESPN's Kiley McDaniel as the No. 6 prospect in the Braves organization.

Before Wednesday, Schwellenbach had pitched only twice in Double-A -- and never in Triple-A. He became the first Braves starter to skip Triple-A since Randall Delgado in 2021. Over eight games with High-A Rome and Double-A Mississippi, Schwellenbach was 4-1 with a 1.80 ERA, with 51 strikeouts in 45 innings.

"We're going to continue to do anything we can to mix and match things," Snitker said Tuesday. "Guys are going to get opportunities. They're getting them a lot quicker now than they used to, that's for sure."

The first four spots in the Braves rotation are set with Chris Sale, Reynaldo López, Max Fried and Charlie Morton, but the fifth position appears to be up for grabs.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.