The dream of AJ Smith-Shawver to see action in the big leagues finally happened on Sunday when Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker sent him to the mound in a relief job against the Arizona Diamondbacks. And judging from Snitker's reaction, it i fario to expect that Atlanta's top prospect is going places.
“It’s so hard in that situation to pick what’s the best time, what’s the right time to bring a kid in?” Snitker said of AJ Smith-Shawver (via Justin Toscano of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution). “We were gonna give it to him if we’d taken the lead. There’s never a perfect (time), but that was probably about as good a time as any, and I thought he handled himself really, really well. His stuff’s really good.”
Smith-Shawver entered the game in the sixth inning and proceeded to strike out three Diamondbacks hitters over the course of 2.1 frames. He also gave up a walk in 39 pitches thrown during his first-ever stint on the mound as a major leaguer.
The Braves announced last Tuesday that they were promoting Smith-Shawver amid injuries to their pitching staff. Although he is expected to be used as part of Atlanta's bullpen, he could be a starter if the Braves need another one.
Before getting called up, Smith-Shawver saw action for three teams in the minor leagues, including with Triple A Gwinnett Stripers, where Braves pitcher Michael Soroka witnessed him do work on the mound during a rehab stint.
“I knew exactly what I was gonna see,” Soroka said of the 20-year-old Smith-Shawver. “I said before: He goes out there and attacks. You can see he’s a competitor, he’s a great athlete. He left it all out there, so it was really awesome to see and it was great.”