MLB News: Braves' Kirby Yates Out To Prove Himself

Kirby Yates on field
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Tristin McKinstry

The defending World Series champion Atlanta Braves are out to defend their title. For one of their pitchers, this season is about proving himself capable once again.

Kirby Yates last pitched during the shortened 2020 season for the San Diego Padres. He threw just 4.1 innings that season for the Friars before undergoing surgery to remove bone chips in his right elbow. He signed with the Toronto Blue Jays last January but underwent Tommy John surgery before throwing a pitch for the club.

A Dominant Run

San Diego Padres pitcher Kirby Yates
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Before his injury woes, Yates had established himself as one of the most dominant relievers in all of baseball. He arrived in San Diego in 2017 after being placed on waivers by the Los Angeles Angels. He pitched to a then career-best 3.72 ERA with 87 strikeouts across 61 appearances for the Padres that season.

He'd be even better in 2018 and 2019. Across those two seasons, Yates recorded a 1.67 ERA and 191 strikeouts in 125 appearances. His 41 save performance in 2019 earned him an All-Star selection and a top 10 finish in Cy Young award voting.

The Road Back

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Kirby Yates
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Yates signed a two-year deal with the Braves in November, with the option of extending the contract to 2024. The former All-Star is currently set for a return around August, which would give the Braves a boost down the stretch for their title defense.

However, Yates understands that his reputation before his injuries won't precede him. “I have to go back out there. I have to prove to myself that I’m still capable of getting big-league outs, and prove to (Alex) and people in this organization that I’m the guy that is able to help the team," he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

His Second Surgery

San Diego Padres pitcher Kirby Yates
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This is not the first time Yates has had to battle back from Tommy John. He was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in 2005, and missed both the 2006 and 2007 seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

“It’s a real monotonous kind of schedule you’re on,” Yates said of his recovery. “To be honest with you, it’s extremely boring. But this is the way it is, and that’s the necessary thing that you got to do.”

The Road Ahead

New York Yankees pitcher Kirby Yates
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Yates recently threw a 25-pitch bullpen session last week. He threw all fastballs and is currently on track for a return sometime in August. Through it all, the former All-Star isn't taking anything for granted.

“This is my job, I chose to do this. "I wouldn’t say my days are terrible by any means. I still get to come to work in a big-league clubhouse every day – I don’t take that for granted." Yates told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.