Collin McHugh signs with the Braves

McHugh is a versatile pitcher who will be targeted as a late-inning reliever. The 34-year-old pitcher posted a 1.55 ERA, recorded 74 strikeouts and walked 12 in 64 innings for the Rays last year. He made 37 appearances, 25 of which consisted of more than one inning.

With offseason losses to Chris Martin and Jesse Chavez, Luke Jackson was previously the only Braves lock to start the season as a bottom-inning right-hander option. McHugh provides another option and bolsters the strength of what could be a very formidable bullpen.

“Collin is as good as he gets,” Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos said. “He’s from Atlanta and really wanted to be here. [Bullpen coach] Drew French and Charlie Morton were with him with the Astros. They adore him as a teammate and a person. You know how much we talk about chemistry, especially with relievers. I think he’s going to fit in and be fantastic.

As the Braves headed for a World Series title last year, they were fueled by the dominance of the Night Shift, a reliever quartet made up of closers Will Smith, Tyler Matzek, AJ Minter and Jackson. McHugh could easily earn a spot in this group. He held opponents to a .207 batting average and .252 on-base percentage last year.

“He’s a late-inning guy who can take both teams out and set up easily,” Anthopoulos said.

McHugh went to high school at Providence Christian Academy in Lilburn, Georgia, which coincidentally is also home to Parkview High School, Olson’s alma mater.

After spending the first full seasons of his career as a starter in Houston, McHugh moved to the bullpen and thrived. He posted a 1.99 ERA in 58 relief appearances for the Astros in 2018, then had a 2.67 ERA in 27 relief appearances during the 2019 season. He opted out of the 2020 season shortened by COVID, then was one of the Rays’ best pitchers last year.

Smith, Matzek, Minter, Jackson and McHugh are currently projected as locks for the bullpen. Unlisted guest Darren O’Day could clinch a spot if he remains healthy, and running out of options could help Sean Newcomb’s bid. Right-handers Jacob Webb, Touki Toussaint and Jay Jackson are among the other candidates.

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