NORTH PORT, FL -- After a somewhat surprising acquisition over the winter, the Atlanta Braves are excited to see gold glover Sean Murphy in action. Some of his considerable catching skills were on display as the club continued its spring training work on Sunday.
Following bullpen sessions on the back fields, Braves backstops took to the main field for batting practice and throwing drills under the watchful eye of catching coach Sal Fasano.
That's where everyone got a firsthand look at just how many ways Murphy can affect the game. His arm impressed teammates and onlookers with both the consistency and speed of the throws to each base. That accuracy is something that may be leaned on even more heavily to control the running game with several rules changes looming.
Last season, Murphy displayed an elite pop-time of 1.89 seconds, second best among all big league catchers. It helped him gun down 31 percent of attempted base-stealers in, ranking third in baseball. The Braves are thrilled about the entire package and expect Murphy to shoulder the bulk of the starts behind the plate. It's yet to be determined just how many starts Murphy and Travis d'Arnaud will make, but a 60-40 split in Murphy's favor seems a reasonable expectation.
Vaughn Grissom turns his attention to game action...
After spending a winter reading headlines and stories about Vaughn Grissom's time with Ron Washington, it sounds like Atlanta's top starting shortstop candidate is ready to write something new. While his work with Washington continues, there was a certain anticipation as Grissom discussed what's ahead.
Though he fielded more questions than grounders on Sunday morning, Grissom won't have all the answers until Grapefruit League games begin. That means he still has a few more days to wait before he could start seeing his offseason dedication start paying dividends.
"We haven't gotten out there yet." said Grissom when asked how he's fitting into a familiar yet new position while being sandwiched between All-Stars Austin Riley and Ozzie Albies on the Atlanta's infield. "We have no spring training games yet. Practice is practice, but it's going to be different in the game. So, we're just waiting to see."
Grissom's opportunity to become Atlanta's starting shortstop is the result of Dansby Swanson's departure and is one of the key stories and questions in Braves camp this spring. Throughout his time with the big league club last year and even over the winter, Grissom has felt the love since debuting.
“Atlanta really took me in," Grissom said of the fans who are pulling for him to take a big step this season. "It feels like they took me in. I have a lot of support. A lot of people are behind me, kind of rooting for me. It feels great. Just trying to keep proving them right."
Regardless of how this spring goes, Grissom isn't going to spend his time trying to replace anyone. His focus remains on working hard and playing his game in order to win the job.
How much pressure does that put on this 22-year-old?
"No pressure," said Grissom. "If I fall on my face, I get back up. Whatever happens happens. I'm just going to keep playing."
Grissom remains one of the youngest players in the majors as he heads into his first full season. While the story of his career figures to take a while to pen, Grissom could be on his way to writing an intriguing chapter in 2023.
Matt Olson discusses MLB's rules changes...
Speaking of All-Star infielders, I chatted with first baseman Matt Olson and got his thoughts on some of the rules changes the Braves are working to adjust to this spring. With Grapefruit League action starting next week, most of the players are just anxious to see what these rules look like in actual game situations.
"It's going to be a little transition," Olson said of the pitch clock. "I don't feel like I'll have a big problem with it. I stay in the box pretty much and I feel like a lot of our hitters are pretty good about time."
"I'm sure it'll be more of an adjustment on the pitchers' side, whether it be getting signs or working with the number of pick-offs or whatever it may be. I'm sure we'll work those kinks out in spring training and be ready to rock for the season."
As Brian Snitker pointed out in the early days of camp, the Braves can (and will) run all the practice drills and cycle through scenarios, but they really want to experience how the rules impact them during a game in order to get a better grasp.
"It'll be real when you don't get a pitch off and you walk somebody or something like that," added Olson, "Game stuff or a count swings from 1-1 to 2-1 instead of 1-1 to 1-2. It's going to affect the flow a little bit, definitely in spring. Hopefully, we work that out and are good for the season."
Another change is the limited number of throws to first that a pitcher is allowed. With only two of those available per at-bat, we could see a rise in stolen base attempts, though Olson is not convinced it will be as easy as some may believe.
"I think they're definitely trying to drive it that way a little bit," said Olson. "It's going to be a shorter distance between base to base with the two or three inches on either side. It's going to entice people to steal a little more."
Throwing over is not the only way a pitcher can hold a baserunner, however. Add in a potential uptick of pickoff attempts from catchers and we should see teams getting more creative in order to keep runners from taking too many liberties on the bases.
"As far as the pickoffs, I don't know how big of a thing that will be," he said. "Honestly, in one at-bat I don't know how many times a guy is picking off three times."
"If it's a base-stealer, they're controlling it more with looks and rhythm on the mound, to where you don't have a tell and a guy starts going. Yeah, it'll be interesting to see if after two [throws over] if guys get a little jumpy, but I think it's a good little wrinkle and I'm excited to see what it's like."