Braves notes: Sean Murphy is a student of the game; Spencer Strider’s fitness

Atlanta Braves catcher Sean Murphy (left) and Travis d'Arnaud chat while taking batting practice during spring training baseball workouts at CoolToday Park, Wednesday, February, 14, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin /



Atlanta Braves catcher Sean Murphy (left) and Travis d'Arnaud chat while taking batting practice during spring training baseball workouts at CoolToday Park, Wednesday, February, 14, 2024, in North Port, Florida. (Hyosub Shin /

NORTH PORT, Fla. — When Sean Murphy was at Wright State, his catching education began, at least in part, with pitching coach Justin Parker.

“He called pitches, but he didn’t leave me in the dark, and he would try and explain what he was doing,” Murphy said. “I probably wasn’t very far along, but then you get to pro ball and all of the sudden, you gotta start learning how to do it.”

Luckily, when Oakland drafted him, he worked with Marcus Jensen and Gabe Ortiz, two coaches in the Athletics organization. They continued to help him refine his craft.

“They gave you a lot of leeway to figure it out yourself,” Murphy said. “They showed you how to operate computers and said, ‘Have at it.’ Kind of trial by fire a little bit, but that’s how you have to learn.”

Catchers must know everything. Everything. Their pitchers’ strengths. The opponents’ tendencies. The situations. Pitch sequencing. The list could grow a lot longer.

This is cliché, but it takes a student of the game to capably fill, and then master, the position. And Murphy, an All-Star and a Gold Glove Award winner, is one of the best in baseball.

“Besides the fact that he has an elite arm, he’s an elite blocker and an elite receiver,” Travis d’Arnaud, a fellow catcher, said. “He wants it. You can tell he wants it. He’s always studying, always trying to learn every single day, always asks questions. He’s very accountable with everything. So you can tell he wants to be great.”

One day in December 2022, the Braves traded for Murphy, the stud catcher from Oakland. The Braves, of course, already had an All-Star catcher in d’Arnaud, who caught every game of the club’s run to a World Series ring in 2021. Before the deal, the team appeared set behind the plate.

And yet, within five minutes of the deal becoming official, Murphy’s phone rang.

It was d’Arnaud. He understood the goal each year here is to win a World Series.

“For me, it was just to teach somebody new to learn the game, try to (teach) all the little things that I learned to be able to become a World Series champion,” he said. “For me, there wasn’t even any other option. I was told to always be a good teammate and teach the game as much as I can. In my eyes, I feel like I’m Tyler Flowers now, and that’s what I’m here to do.”

Flowers shared the duties with d’Arnaud in 2020. (D’Arnaud caught more games.) But Flowers was a great teammate and is now a special assistant of major-league operations for the Braves.

Like anything, catching takes experience. And d’Arnaud is always helping Murphy. “Hey, did you see that?” he’ll ask. Or, “Did you notice that? When this happened to me, it meant …”

“Maybe he notices, but doesn’t understand that for every action, there’s a reaction,” d’Arnaud said. “What does this mean for the next pitch or two pitches after that? A lot of it is little things like that, which really you can only go through when you see it or experience it.”

This, of course, is a big boost for Murphy, who is 29 years old and still learning.

“It’s very helpful having somebody out there who’s watching every pitch and paying attention and wants to win,” Murphy said. “He’s not screwing around in the dugout, he’s watching things that I may not be able to watch during the game. He’s picking up on things. It’s nice when he can come in and tell me something because maybe I wouldn’t have been able to notice in the second.”

In the offseason, Murphy, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, works out at Vanderbilt. There’s a group of major leaguers there. Other catchers there: Jason Delay, Curt Casali and Austin Wynns. “A lot of games caught between those guys,” Murphy said. They all talk ball.

Murphy, an All-Star last season, also has shown he can impact the game with the bat. But even if he doesn’t, his value is in his defensive ability.

When he enters the offseason, he doesn’t focus on one or two areas to improve. He instead casts a wide net.

“You never know what you’ll find,” Murphy said.

Spencer Strider’s fitness

After his first start of spring training, starting pitcher Spencer Strider said he emphasized training hard – as hard as he could – over the offseason. He wanted to push his limits because he wanted to be able to honestly evaluate himself this spring.

He figured: If he weren’t close to his best form, how could he take anything from his performance?

This is paying off for him. He notices it daily.

“I think that last year, I was moving too slow – literally and figuratively – this time of year, and now it’s trying to slow myself down,” Strider said. “That’s much more where I’d rather be. The delivery takes a long time to get synced up, and you kind of feel it one pitch and lose it another, and then it just goes back and forth. But the strength (and) all that, the stamina, that’s exactly where I’d want it to be and more.”

Strider on Thursday threw three scoreless innings in a 5-0 victory over the Twins at CoolToday Park. He struck out five batters, walked one and gave up two hits. He continued displaying his curveball, which might become a weapon.

Bullpen arms look good

After Strider pitched, these guys, in order, followed: Aaron Bummer, Joe Jiménez, A.J. Minter and Pierce Johnson. They’re all projected to be part of the opening-day bullpen.

They combined for four scoreless innings. They struck out three batters and gave up only two hits.

It’s difficult to know how to read spring training, but for the most part, Braves relievers have looked crisp.

Port Charlotte notes

The Braves also played in Port Charlotte for the other game of the split-squad.

Forrest Wall hit two three-run homers. (Yes, two of them.)

Dylan Dodd threw two clean innings. He struck out two batters.

Charlie Culberson, who is making the transition to pitcher, worked around a hit for a scoreless inning.