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  • Writer's pictureGrant McAuley

Braves Spring Training Notebook: First workout in the books

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- With the majority of their team already in camp, the Atlanta Braves officially got to work on Thursday morning, holding their first practice of the spring.

There are dozens of pitchers on hand, with many hoping to show something that will spark the club's interest and garner attention for the season ahead. Even if they don't make the opening day roster, spring training is a chance to get on the radar in a good way.

"We have depth, which is good and you need it" said manager Brian Snitker. "I told them today in the first meeting, we used 29 pitchers last year, so you need a lot and we've seen that. I think we used 11 starters and 29 total pitchers. You can't have too much pitching depth, that's for sure."

Thursday's bullpen action included starters Max Fried, Spencer Strider, and Ian Anderson. They were among the arms throwing on the multi-man mound. Fried worked with new addition Sean Murphy while Strider was partnered with Chadwick Tromp.

Braves aiming to "speed up" pitchers' process of speeding up...

All of the pitchers are already working with the pitch clocks running during their bullpen sessions. That particular rule change will take some getting used to for most Atlanta pitchers and will affect some more than others. By getting a jump on the adjustment, the Braves are hoping to give their pitchers adequate time to modify their cadence and allow the pitch clock to become more second nature than a primary focus on the mound.

Chadwick Tromp catches for Spencer Strider.
The Braves already have pitch clocks running during bullpen sessions, aiming to give their pitchers as many reps as possible to adjust to the new pace of play rules for the 2023 season.

"The more they can experience that, the better," said Snitker. "We were just in there talking today with the minor league guys that have experienced it. It's just kind of good to get their take on it and things they've seen and developed. We're going to expose them to [the clock] as much as we can."

"I'm glad that we're starting out doing that, so we can live it," Snitker added of the pitch clocks that will be in play during exhibition games. "You can read about it, but I think until we get out there and actually see it happening and live it, then things will be better."

Charlie Morton reporting for his 20th career spring training...

Since being drafted by Atlanta in June of 2002, veteran right-hander Charlie Morton has just about seen it all. From an unremarkable start to his sudden emergence as a prospect, Morton made it to the big leagues in 2008 in a manner that surprised even himself.

Though he pitched just one season for Atlanta before being traded away, Morton went on to become a late-bloomer with the Houston Astros and Tampa Bay Rays well into his 30s. Eventually, a 12-season journey brought him full circle when he re-signed with the Braves prior to the 2021 season.

Over the winter, I went down a Baseball-Reference rabbit hole and tracked the past 80 seasons of Braves baseball through three cities and down to four pitchers who were, at least briefly, associated with one another: Warren Spahn, Phil Niekro, Tom Glavine, and Charlie Morton.

While Morton has a certain degree of longevity on his side, it's also fair to say that he doesn't think of himself on equal footing with those three Hall of Fame pitchers.

"Those guys stuck around because they were that good," said Morton. "I think I stuck around because I started to hit my stride at the right time and I just happened to have a set of tools that were being valued as high as they'd ever been valued."

Those skills Morton referenced are his fastball velocity and devastating curve ball. While he may not have the same Cooperstown résumé as Spahn, Niekro, and Glavine, Morton used that pitch combination to set a couple of franchise records in 2021.

His strikeout-percentage (28.6 K%) was the highest ever by a qualified Braves starting pitcher. Morton also became the first qualified starter in the now 151-year franchise history to average 10 or more strikeouts per nine innings, finishing with 10.47 K/9.

Teammate Spencer Strider could be the next man in line to own both of those records. Though he did not pitch enough innings to qualify, Strider posted a 38.3 K% and averaged 13.81 K/9. Impressive stuff for the 2022 National League Rookie of the Year runner-up.

Grant McAuley covers the Braves for 92-9 The Game in Atlanta. Follow Grant on Twitter and Instagram and subscribe to From The Diamond wherever you get your podcasts.


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