Right-hander posted 7.99 ERA over first 11 career starts
By Pat James
ATLANTA -- After Aaron Blair surrendered eight runs against the Mets on Friday, the Braves optioned the right-hander to Triple-A Gwinnett on Saturday and recalled Matt Marksberry.
Blair entered the season as Atlanta's No. 4 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, but has struggled in his first 11 career starts, going 0-5 with a 7.99 ERA. He's the first Braves starter to lose the first five decisions of his career since Don Collins lost five straight to open the 1977 season.
"I think it's just a point where I think he needs to maybe step out of the fray a little bit," Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. "I told him, 'Sometimes you've got to take a step back to take two steps forward.'
"After experiencing everything he had, I think you can become a really good self-evaluator when you're down there. … I think he'll know more about what he needs to do, and I think he'll be all the better for it."
Blair made his Major League debut on April 24 against the Mets. The 24-year-old recorded a 7.59 ERA in his first five starts before being optioned back to Triple-A on May 18, a day removed from allowing nine runs in 1 1/3 innings against the Pirates.
The Braves demoted Blair with the intention of letting him improve his fastball command, but his stay in Gwinnett was short-lived. He pitched three innings on May 21 before returning to Atlanta's rotation on May 28.
Since being recalled from Triple-A, the right-hander has posted an 8.28 ERA (27 earned runs in 29 1/3 innings pitched) across six starts. This time down, the team hopes he'll have a better opportunity to take advantage of his time in Gwinnett.
"I don't know how long it takes to get himself back going to where we think he should be and where we want him to be," Snitker said. "I told him, 'You're a big part of what we've got going forward, and it's not like we're giving up on you. We're trying to help you and do the right thing for you right now, what's best for Aaron Blair and not the Atlanta Braves.'"
Snitker said before Saturday's game against the Mets that the team will take a day-to-day approach on announcing who will replace Blair in the rotation until Mike Foltynewicz returns from the disabled list.
Joel De La Cruz could be an option to receive the start on Wednesday against the Indians. The right-hander's ERA stands at 2.16 over his past four appearances (three starts) in Gwinnett.
Marksberry will be making his second stint with the Braves this year. He allowed one hit and one earned run in two-thirds of an inning against the Mets on April 23. The left-hander had a 2-2 record and a 2.84 ERA in 20 games with Gwinnett.
Pat James is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.