NORTH PORT, Fla. — Before heading to spring training, Jordan Luplow was taking live at-bats when he felt some right oblique soreness.
“It just kind of happened,” he said.
Luplow, still experiencing the soreness, is not yet fully healthy. Spring training affords players plenty of time to heal, though.
“Just easing into it a little bit,” he said. “Progressing day to day.”
On Wednesday, Luplow, an outfielder who signed with the Braves in December, stretched and threw with the team. He took a couple of swings in the batting cage.
The Braves don’t open the regular season until March 30 in Washington. They have time, and they don’t need to rush anyone.
Last spring with Arizona, Luplow suffered a Grade 1 (the least severe) right oblique strain. He didn’t appear in a big-league game until April 25.
“It’s similar,” Luplow said of his current soreness. “But I don’t think it’s as bad. I think we caught it early.”
The oblique issues on his right side, he said, are “weird for a righty.” He isn’t yet a full-go in camp because the Braves are being cautious.
“I thought I was good,” Luplow said. “I got through the first one last year, and I didn’t have a real problem the rest of the year. Coming into this year, it just happened again.”
Luplow arrived in North Port with a real opportunity. Left field is wide open for the Braves, who had most of their positions figured out before camp even began.
He’s one of many options. Eddie Rosario, Eli White, Kevin Pillar, Sam Hilliard and Marcell Ozuna are other names to watch.
“Obviously I’ve been in a spot my whole career where I gotta come in and win a job, and that’s just how it is,” Luplow said. “I’m not scared of that at all. It’s just how the game is now. There’s a lot of competitive guys and a lot of talent out here, especially with the Braves. They want to win a World Series, so they’re gonna put their best foot forward. I’m just gonna go out there, be myself, try to get better every day and help these guys win.”
Since his debut in 2017, Luplow has played great defense. He features a terrific arm. Other than one season, he hasn’t hit much. Over the offseason, he worked on his offense, specifically his bat path. He connected with the Braves’ hitting coaches, including assistant hitting coach Bobby Magallanes, and worked with them.
In 2019 with Cleveland, Luplow hit .276 with a .923 OPS over 225 at-bats. He hit 15 homers and drove in 38 runs. He finished with a 1.181 OPS versus lefties.
“Just offensively, (I) put up the numbers and was the player I think I can be,” Luplow said of that season. “But I think there’s more in the tank. I still don’t think I’ve tapped into the full potential. Working with these guys, I think we’re gonna get there.”
As for the Braves’ situation in left field, here’s what president of baseball operations Alex Anthopoulos recently said on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Braves Report podcast:
“I think the biggest thing is, you look at Ozuna and Rosario, those guys are bat-first guys, they didn’t hit the way they had in their careers last year. We need to see how they look in camp, how they look swinging the bat. And then you look at the other guys that we brought in, they’re elite defensive players, they’ve played center field, they can really defend. Offensively, they haven’t been close to where Ozuna and Rosario have been.
“But if we ultimately come away that we’re not that confident or we don’t feel those other guys are swinging the bat the way that they can, then (manager Brian Snitker) has the ability now to go with a great defender. And look, some of these other guys we’ve talked about with defense, there’s upside with the bat, they just haven’t done it consistently year in and year out. But they have the tools to do it.”
There’s a chance that Rosario and Ozuna won’t hit, and if that occurs, the Braves have options. Someone such as Luplow could gain everyday playing time.
For now, Luplow is working his way back to being fully healthy.
“I don’t think I’m far off, but I think, from both sides, we don’t want to push it too hard, too fast,” Luplow said. “We got a few weeks until the season, and I’m not really trying to miss any time. Hopefully we go about it in a smart way.”
More live batting practice
Charlie Morton, Ian Anderson, Raisel Iglesias and Bryce Elder threw live batting practice Thursday in the main stadium here.
Morton and Anderson completed two simulated innings. Iglesias and Elder each tossed one simulated inning.
The hitters: Austin Riley, Michael Harris, Matt Olson and Marcell Ozuna.
Unofficially, Morton finished with 32 pitches, while Anderson threw 34. Everyone pitched well, as was the case Wednesday, when Max Fried, Spencer Strider and Kirby Yates threw live batting practice.
Allard will start Grapefruit League opener
Kolby Allard will take the mound when the Braves host the Red Sox to open their spring schedule Saturday at CoolToday Park.
“He’s got experience. He’s done a lot of things since he left here. He’s got options,” manager Brian Snitker said. “We used 11 starters last year, so they’re going to have to come from somewhere, and I think he’s going to be a good option for us.”
Since his debut in 2018, Allard has a 6.07 ERA over 232-2/3 innings.
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