Braves-Phillies pushed back to Friday with wet weather in forecast

AP photo by Gerald Herbert / The Atlanta Braves line up for the national anthem before a spring training game against the Detroit Tigers on March 5 in North Port, Fla.
AP photo by Gerald Herbert / The Atlanta Braves line up for the national anthem before a spring training game against the Detroit Tigers on March 5 in North Port, Fla.

Two games set for Major League Baseball's opening day have already been postponed.

The New York Mets were scheduled to host the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday afternoon in a matchup of National League teams. With wet weather expected in Queens, however, the Mets announced Wednesday that the game was pushed back to 1:40 p.m. Friday.

Minutes later, the Philadelphia Phillies announced their sold-out opener against the visiting Atlanta Braves, the six-time reigning NL East champions, was moved from 3:05 p.m. Thursday to Friday at the same time due to anticipated rain.

MLB's 2024 regular season actually opened last week when the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres, NL West teams, had a two-game series in Seoul, South Korea. Thursday, though, is the big day, with 13 games still on tap even after the postponements.

First up is the Los Angeles Angels visiting the Baltimore Orioles at 3:05 p.m.

When the Braves and Phillies get going Friday, right-handers Spencer Strider and Zack Wheeler are set to square off in a juicy matchup.

Wheeler is pitching with a new contract after agreeing to a $126 million, three-year deal for 2025-27 this spring. The 33-year-old could have become a free agent after this season, but instead he recommitted to Philadelphia, where he has been among the game's best since joining the club as a free agent for the 2020 season.

Strider, meanwhile, has a new pitch. The 25-year-old right-hander has been working on a curveball this spring to deepen his repertoire. It's a scary thought for batters, as even without that curve, Strider struck out an MLB-leading 281 batters in 186 2/3 innings last season, finishing fourth in NL Cy Young Award balloting.

Reigning NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. and the Braves finished 14 games ahead of Philadelphia each of the past two years. But the Phillies ended Atlanta's run in Game 4 of an NL Division Series at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park both times.

Familiar name for Atlanta

The Braves sent reliever Jackson Stephens to Triple-A Gwinnett on Tuesday, clearing a spot on the opening day roster for fan favorite Jesse Chavez.

The 40-year-old Chavez was signed by the Braves a day earlier after being released by the Chicago White Sox, who jettisoned the veteran right-hander after he gave up nine earned runs in seven innings during spring training.

This will be Chavez's fifth stint with Atlanta.

"It's good to be home," Chavez said, choking back tears. "Words can't express how I feel right now. There's so many emotions going on with how I feel about Braves Country that it's really tough."

The right-hander was one of the team's most effective relievers in the first half last season, posting a 1.56 ERA with one save in 36 games. But he wound up missing more than three months after taking a comebacker off his left leg hit by the Detroit Tigers' Miguel Cabrera on June 24.

When Chavez returned late in the season, the Braves felt he was not as effective as he was before the injury and left him off their postseason roster. After the season, the Braves made no attempt to re-sign him, allowing him to join the White Sox.

Now, though, Chavez is back in more familiar surroundings for what he said will be his final season.

Stephens was assigned outright to Gwinnett after posting a 3.68 ERA in six appearances covering 7 1/3 innings during spring training. It looked as though he would make the 26-man roster for opening day until the Braves got a chance to bring back Chavez for the long reliever role.

Chavez was first acquired by the Braves on Dec. 11, 2009, in a trade with the Tampa Bay Rays for Rafael Soriano before being traded to the Kansas City Royals less than a year later.

The Braves again obtained Chavez from the Chicago Cubs for reliever Sean Newcomb on April 21, 2022, before sending him to the Angels later that season in a deal that brought closer Raisel Iglesias to Atlanta.

The Braves selected Chavez off waivers later in the 2022 campaign and signed him again as a free agent heading into last season. He has played with nine teams — five of them multiple times — over his 16-year career in the majors.

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