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Braves option top prospect AJ Smith-Shawver to minor league camp

NORTH PORT, Fla. (AP) — The Atlanta Braves optioned top prospect AJ Smith-Shawver to Triple-A Gwinnett on Monday, moving closer to settling on their pitching staff for opening day.

The move was not surprising, given the 21-year-old right-hander's inexperience. It clears the way for the Braves to pick between Bryce Elder and Reynaldo López for the fifth spot in the starting rotation behind Spencer Strider, Max Fried, Chris Sale and Charlie Morton.

Smith-Shawver was sent down after giving up seven hits and four earned runs in three innings of a spring training game Sunday against the New York Yankees. In three starts during the exhibition season, he showed glimpses of his enormous potential — recording 11 strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings — but also gave up 12 hits, seven earned runs and two homers.

“I’m not trying to let people score, but thinking about competing and making pitches more than results,” Smith-Shawver said. "You want to make the team and be on the roster, but it’s still early and I need to develop and get better.”

The young pitcher made a meteoric rise through the Braves' system during the 2023 season, starting out at Class A Rome before finishing on the big league roster for the NL Division Series.

Smith-Shawver went 1-0 with a 4.22 ERA in six Atlanta appearances, including five starts. He'll likely be one of the top options to return to the majors if a pitcher is injured or the Braves need an extra starter this season.

In another move Monday, the Braves reassigned catcher Sebastián Rivero to the minor league camp.

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb