Touki Toussaint didn’t have his phone with him. He was at dinner with family and friends, celebrating his 19th birthday, when then-teammate Brad Keller got a phone call from their Low-A pitching coach, Doug Bochtler, who was looking for Toussaint.
Bochtler told him he needed to get his phone and call Diamondbacks farm director Mike Bell. When he did, Bell gave him the news.
“He said, ‘Hey Touk, you got traded,’” Bell said. “So I walked back inside and told my family. They’re like, ‘No you didn’t.’ Two seconds later, I got a phone call from the Braves saying welcome. And everybody went crazy.”
In the three years since, Toussaint has gradually worked his way through the Braves’ minor-league system, and on Sunday afternoon he’ll make his third career big-league start – and his first against the team that drafted him.
In facing the Diamondbacks, Toussaint will be going against the organization that made the curious decision to essentially sell him in June 2015, when he was moved to Atlanta in a deal that included the shedding of roughly $10 million remaining on right-hander Bronson Arroyo’s contract.
“I mean, I was young and I didn’t understand anything,” Toussaint said. “But it’s baseball. It’s a business. It is what it is.”
The Diamondbacks caught instant criticism throughout the industry for the deal, which executive Tony La Russa justified at the time by saying the shedding of Arroyo’s contract created financial flexibility the club needed for the upcoming offseason.
He also argued at the time that Toussaint would be a “serviceable-to-good major-league pitcher,” but he didn’t think that would happen for another “five or six” years.
“(I’m) a lot different (than before the trade),” Toussaint said. “The Braves are known for their pitching and I’ve matured with them. They just let me be myself, and they taught me and preached fastball command.”
Toussaint, 22, is a right-hander with an explosive fastball and a swing-and-miss curveball. He has logged a 3.38 ERA through 10 2/3 innings in two starts, dominating the Marlins in his first outing, then pitching competitively against the Red Sox in his other start.
This season in the minor leagues, he posted a 2.38 ERA in 136 1/3 innings with 53 walks and 163 strikeouts.
— Nick Piecoro
Bradley loses wager
For all the pressure that Archie Bradley is under regarding his recent lack of results on the mound, there was no sign of it as Bradley yelled at a television inside the home clubhouse at Chase Field on Saturday.
Bradley, watching the Oklahoma-UCLA football game, was lamenting a fourth-quarter touchdown by the Bruins. Oklahoma may have won the game, 49-21, but Bradley had lost a friendly wager he made with manager Torey Lovullo.
Bradley, who committed to play quarterback at Oklahoma out of high school but instead opted to sign with the Diamondbacks, will now have to sport a UCLA jersey next Saturday while the team is in Houston. Lovullo played college baseball for the Bruins.
“So you know there was a wager?” Lovullo asked when a reporter broached the subject on Saturday. “(Archie and I) had this one circled on the calendar for a while. There was a late touchdown, a late push by UCLA.”
Lovullo said he and Bradley agreed on 30 1/2 as the point spread for the game. Oklahoma was up by 35 points until UCLA quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson tossed a 9-yard touchdown pass with 3:44 left in the game to make it a 49-21 final.
Despite the fact that both Lovullo and Bradley have had to speak in recent days about bullpen performance, questionable decisions and Bradley’s recent struggles, the two were able to keep the atmosphere light on Saturday afternoon.
Bradley, who spent his morning by assisting underprivileged kids with back-to-school shopping, watched as UCLA converted its fourth-quarter touchdown. He was glued to the TV and loudly expressed his disapproval at the turn of events.
“I heard him all the way in my office,” Lovullo said of Bradley’s yelling. “Those are good times. Saturdays are fun this time of year.”
Right-hander Shelby Miller threw off flat ground on Saturday and Lovullo said the right-hander’s next step will be to begin throwing off a mound in the bullpen.
Lovullo said he did not have a date on when Miller would take this next step in his rehab, but he did say that the club has no designs to stretch out Miller as a starter for the rest of this season.
If Miller is to return by the end of the regular season, which is far from a certainty, it would be in a bullpen role. However, Lovullo reiterated that Miller would only return if it was determined that his arm would not be at further risk.