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Braves hard-throwing rookie Strider a contender for rotation

New York Mets v Atlanta Braves

ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 01: Spencer Strider #65 of the Atlanta Braves makes his Major League debut during the seventh inning against the New York Mets at Truist Park on October 1, 2021 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Adam Hagy/Getty Images)

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VENICE, Fla. - Hard-throwing rookie right-hander Spencer Strider, who made his major league debut with Atlanta late last season as a reliever, is being considered for one of the open spots in the Braves’ rotation.

General manager Alex Anthopoulos told The Associated Press on Thursday Kyle Wright and Huascar Ynoa “are the front-runners” for spots in the rotation behind Max Fried, Charlie Morton and Ian Anderson.

Anthopoulos included Strider, regarded as a possible future closer, with Kyle Muller and Tucker Davidson as others competing for rotation spots with the World Series champs. Strider’s fastball has been timed at 100 mph.

“Obviously he has great velocity,” Anthopoulos said of Strider. “He has looked good.”

Strider, 23, was a fourth-round draft pick from Clemson in 2020. He was a fast riser as a starter in the Braves’ organization in 2021. Class A Augusta was the first of his four minor league stops in the season.

He struck out 153 in 94 innings and posted a 3.64 ERA. He allowed one run in 2 1-3 innings in two late-season relief appearances with Atlanta.

“We saw a big arm in him last year, the brief look that we got,” manager Brian Snitker said Tuesday. “I like him also. I’ve been very impressed with a lot of our young guys we’ve seen in this camp and he’s one of them.”

Strider pitched two scoreless innings, fanning three, in his first spring training appearance against Minnesota.

“He did a really nice job,” Anthopoulos said. “I’m anxious to see him again.”

Right-hander Touki Toussaint was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett on Wednesday. Even without Toussaint in the mix, the Braves still face a difficult task of finding enough innings this spring. Thursday’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin was rained out, pushing back a scheduled start for Anderson.

The Braves open the season on April 7 in Atlanta against Cincinnati and are scheduled to play 14 consecutive days before their first day off. Anthopoulos said the Braves likely will open the season with a six-man rotation “at least for two times through the rotation. Then after that I think we’ll go back down to five.”

That plan leaves room for three of the five candidates mentioned by Anthopoulos to each make two starts in April before the move back to a five-man rotation.

Anthopoulos said Toussaint’s early move to the minor league camp, where he can be given more consistent work, doesn’t rule him out of the rotation plans.

“Touki is going to be up here again and he’s going to make starts for us,” Anthopoulos said.