Braves Spring Training Live Blog (2/14)

Atlanta Braves pitchers and catchers report to spring training today. I’ll be keeping a live blog of all the news and notes from Day 1. Be sure to check back often for updates, which will be posted throughout the day.

I’ll be doing plenty of social media as well, so be sure to follow me:

Twitter/Periscope:  @grantmcauley

Facebook: Around The Big Leagues

Also, get to know the 2017 Atlanta Braves in my 5-part preview series:

12:15 PM — The Braves invited left-hander A.J. Minter to big league camp this spring. He impressed the organization while recovering from Tommy John surgery last season. I had a chance to chat with him about his expectations for 2017.

 

11:43 AM — Matt Kemp is among the early arriving position players. He appears to have dropped some of the bad weight he was carrying last season. He’s definitely trimmer and perhaps even added a little muscle. Kemp wasted little time getting to work. He was out on the main field running and doing agility drills after getting set up in the clubhouse and squaring away his locker. Kemp’s weight became an ongoing winter storyline after Braves GM John Coppolella called attention to it an interview late last season. To his credit, it appears Kemp made the most of his time this winter. His bat is an important part of the Braves lineup.

11:30 AM — Spent some extended time in the Braves clubhouse talking to a number of players, many of whom are getting acquainted with new teammates and trying to get the lay of the land before workouts begin on Wednesday morning. Among those chomping at the bit to get started this season is Mike Foltynewicz, who said he’s ready to prove he belongs in the rotation after an encouraging 2016.

Foltynewicz on building off his progress from 2016…

“Last year was a kind of a roller coaster, so I’m trying to find that medium out there instead of hitting ups and downs. That’s one of my goals this year, is just trying to be [consistent] instead of dipping up and down. The other thing I have to work on this year is command of the strike zone and not walking people. Trying to get through the lineup, for me the third time was really a struggle for me last year. That’s what I have to work on this year, trying to fool people and watch a lot more video.”

On veteran pitchers Bartolo Colon, R.A. Dickey and Jaime Garcia joining the rotation…

“Anything to help the team win, and bringing in those three guys is going to help to help us younger guys tremendously this spring and even throughout this season. Anything can happen during the season, but just learning from those guys who have years and years of experience and just picking any one of their brains one time is going to be helpful. Like I said, anything to help the team win. These guys are solid. They’re going to go out there and give you quality starts, start after start. It’s really awesome to see these guys come in and help us win. We’ll just go from there.”

11:02 — New Braves starter Jaime Garcia is excited about the chance to pitch for Atlanta. He also discussed the opportunity represent his home country of Mexico in the World Baseball Classic, though he has not made a final decision on whether or not he will take part. He made it clear that his top priority is getting ready for the regular season.

Garcia on being part of a rotation with Bartolo Colon and R.A. Dickey…

“Not only is it going to help out on the field, but it’s going to help in the clubhouse. I’ve never played with those two guys, but they’re both great people. They’ve had a lot of success and long careers in this game.  They’re great teammates, great clubhouse guys from what I’ve heard. I include myself, a lot of people are going to pick their brains and learn from how they go about it. For me personally, anything I can bring to any of these young guys, that’s what I’m here for.”

His first impression of manager Brian Snitker and becoming an Atlanta Brave…

“The positiveness and the great attitude. Guys love him around here and respect him. I’m extremely excited to be a part of this. I’ve always been a huge fan of the Atlanta Braves. They were one of my favorite teams growing up. I love the history of this team and just how they go about it… I’m definitely very excited and humbled by the opportunity to be a part of it.”

How pitching in the WBC for Mexico affects his preparation for the season…

“My goal this year is to prepare for April and hopefully to pitch through October. That’s my goal and that’s what I’m preparing for. I’ve been around for some time and I know what I need to do. So, WBC didn’t change one bit of my preparation. It doesn’t change my spring training philosophy. If I go out there and pitch in one round, two rounds, whatever I do, it’s going to be like being in spring training. Obviously, I’m going to try and do well, but every time I take the mound, whether it’s a bullpen, or spring training game or a World Series game when I’ve been on that stage, its always with the same intensity. I don’t try to throw harder. I don’t try to do anything different. It’s pretty much just the same. Anytime I take the mound, I don’t take it for granted ”

 

9:45 AM — Brian Snitker met with the media and provided plenty of updates as the team arrives at the Disney complex this week. Here are some highlights from this morning’s media session.

An update on Sean Rodriguez…

“I was more worried about his family. I talked to him on the way down here and really didn’t even ask him about him. I was more concerned with how the kids are, his wife and family pretty much. Just the short time I’ve known Sean, and played against him, the guy is a baseball player. He’s a gamer and really enjoys everything about this whole gig. So, it’s tough for a guy like that to have a setback like that.”

On addition of Brandon Phillips, who figures to hit in the middle the of the order…

“He’s still a really good player… he’s still one of those guys that I hated to see come up. He’s dangerous. The guy, for me, I always marveled at how easy he played the game. He’s a good player. I think he further legitimizes our lineup and lengthens it. I don’t think it will be anything but a good thing to have him in the middle of our lineup.”

Where Ozzie Albies is on his road back from broken elbow…

“He had the surgery and he’s on a rehab program pretty much. It’ll be a few weeks before he’s in games. He’s going through the process and they have a program mapped out for him, so he’ll be a little behind. The biggest thing is just getting him healthy and not trying to rush him. He’s a young kid and it’ll be hard for him, I’m sure, to tone it down a little bit because he’s an aggressive kid that wants to play. But our medical staff has a plan for him and they’ll stick to it and it’ll work.”

On the addition of veteran starting pitchers and getting his first look at the new pieces…

“There’s still going to be competition for jobs, but we got the guys we wanted (R.A. Dickey, Bartolo Colon and Jaime Garcia). At the end of last year we started looking at how we wanted to improve our club and the guys we wanted to go after. We got the guys we wanted.”

On Matt Wisler and Aaron Blair competing with Mike Foltynewicz for the final rotation spot…

“I think it’s a job that right now, I’m not giving it away. The competition is good and I think everybody needs to feel like they can be that guy. We have seven weeks, so a lot can happen. I think these guys will be ready. Competition isn’t anything but good for a situation like that.”

What Ron Washington brings to the table…

“There’s probably nobody out here with more energy than that man… He’s a baseball rat. He just wants to get on that field and work. Everything everybody has told me is you’re not going to outwork that guy and you’re probably not going to get out here any earlier than him. He has his programs and I think it’ll be very beneficial to our infielders, that day in and day out approach that he brings.”

 

Grant McAuley covers the Braves for 92-9 The Game. You can follow Grant on Twitter. Subscribe to his podcast, “Around the Big Leagues” on (iTunes) or (Stitcher). All statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference unless otherwise noted.

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