Braves take flier on Ken Giles in hopes ex-closer can regain velocity

ATLANTA — The Braves’ assortment of non-roster invitees has the usual array of top prospects (2023 first-round draftee pitcher Hurston Waldrep tops that list), journeymen and fringe major leaguers. But it also has a name that stands out among the whole lot: Ken Giles.

A former standout closer, Giles is trying to make a comeback at 33 and signed a minor-league deal with Atlanta after throwing for the Braves and other interested teams nearly two weeks ago.

Giles had a 2.71 ERA and 115 saves in 362 appearances over eight major-league seasons, with 484 strikeouts in 355 1/3 innings. The right-hander burst onto the MLB scene by posting a 1.56 ERA in 113 appearances in his first two seasons with Philadelphia in 2014-2015 and had 16 saves while filling in as the closer.

Giles had 60 saves and 136 strikeouts during 2017-2018 with Houston and Toronto. But after elbow issues that led to September 2020 Tommy John surgery, and later shoulder and finger injuries, he pitched only eight innings in nine MLB appearances over the past four seasons.

Giles last pitched in the majors in 2022 with Seattle (4 1/3 scoreless innings) and had a 9.50 ERA in 19 games for the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate in 2023.

Once armed with a triple-digit fastball — his nickname was “100 Miles Giles” — the velocity declined after the injuries, but Giles had it back up to 94-96 mph at the recent tryout for teams.

The Braves, who already built a deep and experienced bullpen lined with power-armed lefties and righties, see Giles as a no-risk signing with potential big upside, particularly if he can add another tick or two to his fastball velo. 

(Photo of Ken Giles from 2019: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

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