The Braves placed right-hander Michael Tonkin on the 15-day injured list today due to a neck strain, with Dylan Dodd called up from Triple-A in the corresponding move. Tonkin’s IL placement is retroactive to May 24.
Tonkin has a 3.42 ERA over 26 1/3 innings out of Atlanta’s bullpen this season, with a solid 5.8% walk rate and a heavy dose of batted-ball luck (.203 BABIP) helping make up for a below-average hard-hit ball rate, as well as a forgettable 18.4% strikeout rate. It’s still a very respectable showing for a pitcher who last worked in the majors in 2017, as Tonkin had a 4.43 ERA over 146 1/3 innings for the Twins from 2013-17. After being released in November 2017, Tonkin’s long path back to the Show included stops in Japan, Mexico, independent leagues, and in the farm systems of the Brewers and Diamondbacks before he inked a minor league deal with the Braves prior to the 2022 season.
Dodd allowed four runs in five innings in tonight’s start against the Phillies, which marked the left-hander’s fourth start of the season. This is the third time the Braves have included the rookie southpaw on the big league roster, as Dodd has gotten some looks due to the ongoing health concerns in Atlanta’s pitching staff. The Braves have been short-handed in the rotation for more or less the entire season, and that shortage will continue since Kyle Wright and Max Fried are facing extended stints on the injured list.
While Wright was moved to the 60-day IL, Fried remains on the 15-day IL after his initial placement on May 6. Fried is dealing with a forearm strain, but after a few weeks of shutdown, played catch today for his first bit of throwing since his injury occurred. It’s still too early in the recovery process to know when Fried might be able to pitch again, but the Braves did have a rough projection of early July for his return, which might represent a best-case scenario. Given the May 6 placement and early-July estimate, Fried might still get placed on the 60-day IL just as a matter of timing and if the Braves need a 40-man roster spot, so a move to the 60-day wouldn’t necessarily be any hint about Fried’s progress.
In other pitching injury news from deeper within Atlanta’s organization, Baseball America’s Geoff Pontes (Twitter link) reports that JR Ritchie will undergo Tommy John surgery. As per the procedure’s usual timeline, Ritchie will miss the remainder of the 2023 and probably at least half of the 2024 season, and a recovery setback could put the young righty’s entire 2024 campaign in jeopardy. Pitching at A-ball this season, Ritchie had a 5.40 ERA over 13 1/3 innings that seems almost entirely due to bad luck, given his enormous .440 BABIP and his incredible 47.2% strikeout rate.
Ritchie was taken 35th overall in the 2022 draft, selected by the Braves with the Competitive Balance Round-A draft pick they acquired from the Royals as part of the Drew Waters trade last July. A high schooler out of Washington state, Ritchie took an above-slot bonus of $2.4MM (the 35th overall pick had a slot price of $2.0232MM) to start his pro career rather than honor his commitment to UCLA. MLB Pipeline ranks Ritchie third among all Braves prospects and Baseball America ranks him fourth, with both publications praising the 19-year-old’s arsenal of four quality pitches. BA’s scouting report felt Ritchie was advanced enough to possibly land in Double-A before the 2023 season was over, but now his Tommy John surgery will throw an unwelcome delay into his career.