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  • Writer's pictureGrant McAuley

It's 'World Series or bust' as Atlanta Braves begin 2024 Spring Training

Updated: Feb 14

Atlanta Braves pitchers working out in North Port, Fla.
Braves pitchers wrap up the first day.

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- The Atlanta Braves and the rest of the baseball world are finally getting back to business this week. Pitchers and catchers reported to the club's spring training facility on Wednesday, signifying the first of many steps on the long road to reach October.

While Atlanta knows all about the highs and lows of the postseason, this year's team is hoping to erase the recent disappointment of consecutive early exits.

"Looking back, we were the best team in baseball and for us to go out like that in the first round, it’s just that we hold ourselves to a high standard here," veteran reliever A.J. Minter said of their 2023 defeat in just four games in the NLDS.

There are clubs across Major League Baseball that would be happy to simply reach the postseason. It's an accomplishment, a worthwhile step, a box to check.

But that is not the case for the Braves.

Not anymore.

"We hold ourselves to a different standard than most organizations and that’s what separates us," Minter said. "I think we need to get everyone focused coming to spring training like, 'Hey, this is World Series or bust.'"

That should become the slogan for the 2024 Braves, if it's not already.

After 104 victories resulted in a sixth consecutive division title and a first round bye in the postseason a year ago, the Braves were once again unable to vanquish the division rival Philadelphia Phillies, a team that finished a distant 14 games out of first place in the regular season.

Hoping to both fortify the rotation and add more intensity for the big stage, Atlanta traded for Chris Sale over the winter. His contributions could be among the most important this season, particularly if he proves to be completely healthy for the first time since 2018.

Sale joins Max Fried, Spencer Strider, and Charlie Morton to front the starting five, with Bryce Elder among those vying for the final spot. Young guns AJ Smith-Shawver and Hurston Waldrep are also in camp and in competition. After using 16 different starters a year ago, Atlanta is well aware of the importance of quality depth.

Waldrep, who will turn 22 next month, was selected by Atlanta in the first round of the draft last July but still managed to appear at all four full-season affiliates in 2023. He finished the year with a 1.53 ERA in 8 starts, though he logged just 29-1/3 innings.

Rocketing through the minor league system puts Waldrep on the fast track for an opportunity in Atlanta as soon as this season.

"I'm a high achiever, so for me it was like, 'Okay, let's go,'" he said of the promotions. "That's always kind of been my mentality with everything, but especially in baseball. Never be surprised by anything. Always take it as a challenge and always learn from every step."

That experience has Waldrep excited as he attends his first big league camp.

"You see this organization, they like moving guys fast," Waldrep said. "Obviously, last year, everything moved really, really fast [for me]. Seeing what they’ve done in the past with other guys and realizing that there’s always a chance for any spot anywhere.”

The Braves will hold their first workout on Thursday with many position players already in camp. Everyone is required to report by Monday ahead of the first full squad workout on Tuesday. Atlanta opens the exhibition season on February 24 on the road against the Tampa Rays.


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