The Braves’ bullpen continued to take shape with Sunday’s surprising announcement that they have granted James Russell his unconditional release.
Seen as the likely long reliever, Russell struggled this spring, posting a 10.57 ERA over 7 2/3 innings in three games with three walks and three strikeouts.
In his last outing against the Astros on March 23 he gave up three runs and four hits over four innings, including a two-run home run to former Brave Evan Gattis.
With his departure, Atlanta could look to Brady Feigl, who hasn’t pitched above Class A, but impressed in his time in camp. The 24-year-old lefty had a 1.35 ERA over 6 2/3 innings, allowing seven hits with six strikeouts and zero walks. He was reassigned to the minor league camp on March 16.
During the winter, the left-handed Russell had been discussed as a potential option for the backend of Atlanta’s rotation, but those talks quieted as the Braves brought in a number of veteran starters. The trading of David Hale, last season’s long reliever, seemed to solidify Russell’s role.
But he arrived at camp still wanting to start, telling FOXSportsSouth.com: "I’m preparing like I’m competing for a fifth starting spot and I have that mindset."
Acquired from the Cubs before last season’s trade deadline as a lefty specialist, he didn’t quite live up to that billing. Lefties hit .284 against Russell compared to .165 by right-handers.
He had a 2.22 ERA and 1.027 WHIP in 24 1/3 innings with the Braves and set things in motion for those rumors of moving to the rotation by starting the final game of last season when he went four innings against the Phillies, allowing two hits over four innings.
The sixth-year veteran avoided arbitration with a one-year $2.425 million deal, which the Braves will pay $606,000 for his time in camp.
With Russell gone, Atlanta now has 38 active players in camp.