June 13, 2024

Increasing the depth of their bullpen was a top focus for the Atlanta Braves this offseason.

That’s fortunate since one important player might not be available on Opening Day.

Recovering from a 2022 Tommy John surgery, lefty Tyler “Nutsack” Matzek, who gained notoriety throughout Braves Country for his heroics in the 2021 postseason, hinted that he might not be ready for Opening Day.

In an interview with the media this morning in North Port, Florida, Matzek stated that while he feels good, he’s not sure whether he’ll be ready for Opening Day and alluded to the possibility of going to rehab before being activated.

I’m having a great time. feeling good and not having any problems. My arm feels fantastic. In addition, There shouldn’t be any restrictions (on pitches, trips, or workload), in my opinion. Of course, things can alter; perhaps a brief stay in rehab at first.”

It’s unclear whether Matzek, who underwent Tommy John surgery on October 12, 2022, with Texas-based Dr. Keith Meister—Atlanta’s go-to surgeon—is merely attempting to manage expectations or if he genuinely doesn’t know if he’ll be able to perform to his typical caliber on Opening Day.

Matzek is on a “normal throwing program” with no restrictions, according to manager Brian Snitker, but the spring’s objective is to “get him competition (ready) again.”

Therefore, Atlanta will have some much-needed flexibility in their bullpen if Matzek starts Opening Day on the injured list and makes rehab outings in the minors. According to FanGraphs’ Roster Resource, of the expected Opening Day bullpen, not a single pitcher has a minor league option. Unless Atlanta decided to move someone to the bullpen and expose them to waivers, the only option to make a change in the bullpen would be to put them on the injured list.

And since MLB recently fined former New York Mets general manager Billy Eppler for misusing the injured list by fabricating a medical condition that would keep him out of the 2024 World Series, it seems less likely that the Braves will consider placing a reliever on the list for minor injuries that won’t keep them from playing.

In any case, Braves Country will celebrate Tyler Matzek’s (and his new necklace’s) long overdue return to the Truist Park mound on this day.

How Braves' Tyler Matzek buried the Dodgers with electric relief appearance  in NLCS Game 6 - CBSSports.com

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