After seasons derailed by injury, Eli White vows to be same max-effort player

Braves center fielder Eli White (right) warms up during the first full-squad spring training workout at CoolToday Park, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin /



Braves center fielder Eli White (right) warms up during the first full-squad spring training workout at CoolToday Park, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin /

NORTH PORT, Fla. — In July, Eli White darted from center field toward the gap as he tracked a ball. He did not dive, but as he reached toward the ball, he over-extended himself and awkwardly fell.

“I had never dislocated my shoulder, but I knew right away what happened,” White said of his injury while playing at Triple-A Gwinnett. “And I kind of rolled over on my back, and I felt it pop back in.”

He sustained a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He needed surgery to repair that and other damage.

For the third consecutive year, he suffered a season-derailing injury. At Gwinnett, he felt like he was on the right track, he was having fun and he hoped to get called back up to the majors. But because of one play, it was all over – again.

“A lot of ‘what ifs’ go into that because it was such a weird play,” White said. “It was one of those things where I feel like if I would’ve dove for the ball, then I probably wouldn’t have gotten hurt. It was just kind of in between. I ran that play through my head a million times. It’s super disappointing.”

The one thing you need to know about White after he saw three consecutive seasons end early because of injury: He is not changing the way he plays. He will be the same player.

He will chase balls with maximum effort, he will dive and he will steal bases. He is committed to being the same player.

“I was taught from high school and early on playing, as cliché as it sounds, play the game, it could be your last game,” White said. “I don’t want to go out there and be careful while I’m playing. I want to play and have fun. I have some ability and I’m able to run, run down the ball, so that’s part of just who I am as a player. I don’t want to put the brakes on with any of that. I want to be full-go. Being a good defender is part of what brings value to my game, and so I gotta continue to do that.”


In July, the Braves announced they released White. Fans asked, wait, what? They released an injured player?

Usually, there is an explanation. That’s the case here. A couple of days after surgery, White went to North Port and had a conversation with Ben Sestanovich, the Braves’ assistant general manager for player development.

“(Sestanovich) basically was like, ‘We need your roster spot, and the only option is for us to release you or put you on the 60-day (injured list).’ And they decided to release me,” White recalled. “But he explained the whole thing to me. It probably looked worse than it really was, just getting released after an injury.”

Immediately, the Braves offered White a two-year minor-league deal. It covered the end of last season and will take him through this year. Had the Braves put him on the major-league 60-day injured list, White would’ve earned service time and big-league pay.

In the months after surgery, he rehabbed in North Port until early November, when the Braves allowed him to finish the process at home. He was happy with how the Braves handled his situation.

“Getting hurt in the minors is just a tough thing because there’s only so many options the team has,” White said. “It worked out, and they took care of me through the whole process. Atlanta is where I want to be, so I was excited that they wanted to sign me back.”

White is back in major-league camp as a non-roster invitee battling for a roster spot. As it stands, it seems the Braves still must figure out the final two bench roles. With his speed and defensive ability, White might be a good candidate for one of them – especially because Braves president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos recently said speed probably would factor into one of those final two bench spots. (That also could point to Forrest Wall, who is a speedster.)

Of course, White was really disappointed after tearing his labrum. He fractured his wrist in an outfield collision in 2022 and underwent an internal brace procedure to repair a torn UCL at the end of the 2021 season. Ahead of last year, he worked hard on swing changes.

He hoped to stick in the majors. And then, in an instant, he suffered the same fate as the previous two years.

Steadily, he processed the play that ended his year.

“You just kind of gotta accept it for what it is. It’s just a baseball play,” White said. “I pride myself on being a guy that plays hard, so the way I play, I want to try and make every play out there. I’m not gonna play careful trying not to get hurt. Unfortunately, the past two years, my season has ended trying to probably do a little bit too much in the outfield – the collision in 2022, and then the play last year. That’s just the type of player I am, and that’s the type of player I want to be.

“So hopefully that doesn’t happen again, but I’m gonna keep playing hard and keep trying to do everything I can to catch every ball in the outfield. It’s a lot of fun. I like running around and trying to catch everything, and so I’m gonna keep doing that.”

In spring games, White will be able to dive for balls and slide headfirst into bases to prove to himself that his shoulder is healthy. He doesn’t have any doubts, but many players coming off injuries need to get over mental hurdles.

“I don’t expect there to be any (mental) block,” White said. “I feel really, really confident in how my shoulder has healed and how it’s feeling just swinging the bat and doing everything. So I don’t expect there to be any mental block, but it’s definitely a hurdle I’ll have to get over once I make that first dive in the outfield. I feel like that’ll be a little bit of a sigh of relief. But I don’t expect myself to be hesitant or anything out there.”

Last year, White went 1-for-14 in his brief major-league stint. At Triple-A, he hit .254 with an .813 OPS over 169 at-bats. In the minors, the right-handed hitting White performed better versus lefties than he had in his career, which is important because in a bench role, he might play only if a left-handed pitcher is starting for the opposing team.

Braves manager Brian Snitker called White a “very talented guy.” The manager said “it’s just about health and staying on the field.” This is the story of White’s career: Talented, but unlucky with injuries. On Wednesday, Snitker watched White taking batting practice, and noted that he’s a “big, strong kid” who “checks all the boxes.”

“You’d just like to see him have a full year of health,” Snitker said, “and see what he could do.”

White has all spring to show the Braves why he deserves a spot. He’s committed to playing any role necessary.

“I honestly try not to think about too much of that stuff,” White said. “Obviously, it’s in your head a little bit because you can look at the roster and see what things are shaking out. I just want to go out and play again and show what I can do, as cliché as that sounds. But that’s really my mindset. I just want to go out and play hard, and let the chips fall where they may.”