Braves send Rule 5 pick Rutckyj back to Yankees
In the opening days of spring training, Fredi Gonzalez noted that despite his gaudy minor league strikeout numbers, the Braves manager had his concerns about Rule 5 pick Evan Rutckyj.
"You don't know until you put him in there," Gonzalez said.
It seems he and the Braves had seen enough, as Friday, Atlanta sent the left-handed reliever back to the Yankees. New York announced that he had been assigned to Triple-A Scranton/Wiles-Barre.
As a Rule 5 pick, the Braves would have been required to keep Rutckyj on their 25-man roster the entire season or offer him back at half of the $50,000 claiming price.
Rutckyj, 24, pitched three scoreless innings for the Braves, allowing one hit and one run on March 6 against the Mets, but dealt with control issues. He walked five while striking out two and 14 of his 34 pitches were called for strikes.
It was a stark difference from the numbers he posted in the Yankees' minor league system, as he fanned an average of 8.7 batters per nine innings, including 82 in 61 2/3 in high-A and Double-A in 2015.
With the Canadian out of the picture, Matt Marksberry optioned to Double-A and Andrew McKirahan likely to undergo his second Tommy John surgery, the Braves' left-handed relief options are down to veterans Ian Krol and Alex Torres.
Krol, whom Atlanta acquired in the deal that sent starting center fielder Cameron Maybin to the Tigers, had dealt with his issues. He's thrown 4 1/3 Grapefruit League innings with a 10.38 ERA and his last time out against the Cardinals on Wednesday, was roughed up for three runs (two earned) in 2/3 of an inning. He's also walked more batters (four) than he's struck out (three).
Entering his fourth major league season, Krol has a career 4.91 ERA in 88 innings, posting an ERA of 5.79 and 26 K's to 17 walks in 28 innings over 33 games with Detroit last season. He also allowed lefties to hit .326.
The Braves know Torres all too well from his days with the Mets and the non-roster invitee has largely impressed at camp, allowing two hits and zero earned runs in five innings over for games. He's also struck out for with one walk.
One of the few pitchers that wears a padded, protective hat, Torres was better against right-handed hitters (.157 average against) than lefties (.268) last season with the Mets.
But with the choices dwindling, one of if not both lefties figure to have a spot in a bullpen that is out to improve on last year's setback when it was 29th in the majors with a 4.69 ERA.
Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney and Facebook. His book, 'Tales from the Atlanta Braves Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Braves Stories Ever Told,' comes out April 12, 2016.