Braves Call up Reliever to Start in Pittsburgh on Friday Night

The corresponding move for the Atlanta Braves was, unfortunately, yet another injured list placement for an oblique strain.
Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Ray Kerr (58) and catcher Travis d'Arnaud (16) celebrate after a victory against the Boston Red Sox at Truist Park
Atlanta Braves relief pitcher Ray Kerr (58) and catcher Travis d'Arnaud (16) celebrate after a victory against the Boston Red Sox at Truist Park / Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
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The Atlanta Braves like how well their last “relief-to-starting” experiment, they’re trying it again. 

Free agent signing Reynaldo López, who is the rotation’s ERA leader (1.54) after converting from three years of bullpen work, obviously has taught the Braves a lot about what qualities a reliever needs to have to make the conversion. 

They’re trying it again with the news that reliever Ray Kerr has been called up to start tonight’s series opener against the Pittsburgh Pirates in PNC Park. 

Kerr, 29, was acquired by Atlanta this offseason from the San Diego Padres along with veteran Matt Carpenter (who was later released) in exchange for minor leaguer Drew Campbell. He’s pitched in four games so far for the Braves this season, going 9.1 innings with three runs allowed on nine hits, walking two and striking out ten. 

It’s not his first time starting in his professional career, although it will be his first Major League start. Kerr was a full-time starter in the minor leagues in 2018, starting 25 games for Seattle’s Class A affiliate after being signed as an undrafted free agent following the 2017 draft. He started only ten games in 2019, appearing mostly in relief, and made only two starts in 2021 after the minor leagues resumed following the shortened 2020 season. 

But this season, he’s already started a game for Gwinnett in his last minor league action before being called up in early May, going three innings against the Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay Rays affiliate) and getting his pitch count up to 50. He followed that up with three two consecutive three innings relief stints for the Braves, one each against the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres, and pushed his pitch count up to 64 in the last of the two outings. 

The length of the outing prompted manager Brian Snitker to admit that the team might look at using Kerr as a starter, and that’s exactly what the team will do tonight. The Braves bullpen still has Darius Vines, who was called up to replace Bryce Elder on Monday, and he’s likely to “piggyback” Kerr tonight to provide length and bridge to the conventional relief roles late in the game. 

The corresponding move for Atlanta was to place promising young starter AJ Smith-Shawver on the 15-day injured list with a strained left oblique muscle. Smith-Shawver, who was impressive in his first major league start yesterday, didn’t mention after the game that he was feeling discomfort but the situation undoubtedly worsened when he woke up this morning, as these things tend to do.  

UPDATE: Smith-Shawver's father Jason identified the inning and pitch with which Smith-Shawver got injured yesterday on social media this morning.

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Lindsay Crosby


Managing Editor for Braves Today and the 2023 IBWAA Prospects/Minors Writer of the Year. You can reach him at