Braves reliever Nick Anderson is trusting his arm again, having ‘way more fun’

Reliever Nick Anderson delivers a pitch during the eighth inning of the Braves' 5-4 loss to the Marlins April 27 in Atlanta.

Credit: Jason Getz/

Credit: Jason Getz/

Reliever Nick Anderson delivers a pitch during the eighth inning of the Braves' 5-4 loss to the Marlins April 27 in Atlanta.

ARLINGTON, Texas – When reflecting on the beginning of his season, part of Nick Anderson’s answer contained an important phrase.

“I think (I’m) kind of getting back to being athletic and fully, fully trusting my arm and just kind of letting it be a whip and letting it be loose,” he said.

The key words: “Fully, fully trusting my arm.” Extremely key words.

This season, Anderson is attempting to come back from an elbow injury that derailed his past couple of years. The physical part of this is difficult. The mental part might be even tougher.

He needed to develop this trust in his arm again. The trust that he could fire baseballs at max effort without reinjuring his elbow.

“It just kind of helps you get back into the actual game and playing and competing,” he said of the newfound trust. “Before, I never thought about my arm when I’d go out there. Even if I was sore or kind of had a weird little ache or pain, it’s just like, ‘Well, if I blow out today, I blow out today.’ And then you and you go out, you compete and you play, and you don’t think about it. Just to kind of get back into that mindset – even days that I don’t feel good, or I feel wacky, I feel out of sync – still mentally, being like, ‘All right, well,’ and then going out and just trusting your arm, trusting your natural ability. It’s been huge.”

To this point, Anderson has been successful. After Thursday’s scoreless outing, the right-hander has a 2.95 ERA over 18-1/3 innings. He’s struck out 21 batters while walking only three. Opponents are batting only .185 against him.

The discussion about Anderson has centered around this: Could he return to pre-injury form?

He appears to be getting back there.

“I think he is the more he pitches,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said Monday in Texas. “He’s been really effective for us, been really good. He’s been in the big moments. We knew that coming in, that because of a lot of his layoffs and everything, he was just going to need to probably get some innings under him, and it looks like it just continues to get better and better.”

Multiple times, Anderson used the word “whippy.” This is how he wants his arm to feel, and this is how it feels. He can truly let it rip. He doesn’t feel robotic anymore. He feels athletic.

“I’d say things have been going pretty well,” he said. “Some days are better than others, of course. I feel better, I feel more fluid. It’s been big just getting out every day, playing catch, throwing in games and just kind of getting that routine back a little bit. I’ve been pretty surprised at how I’ve bounced back, to be honest. Sometimes after the game, I’m like, ‘Oh, I’m gonna be sore tomorrow.’ But then I wake up and come play catch, and I’m like, ‘I feel great.’ It’s pretty relieving on the mental side of things, for sure.”

Why has he bounced back so well after each outing?

“Probably not old age,” the 32-year-old Anderson said, cracking up. “I don’t know.”

Eventually, he looked to his left, toward Charlie Morton’s locker.

“Maybe I’m like a fine wine,” he said. “Maybe I’m like another Chuck.”

Braves relief pitcher Nick Anderson throws a pitch during Braves spring training at CoolToday Park, Friday, Feb. 17, 2023, in North Port, Fla.. (Hyosub Shin /


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In all seriousness, Anderson brought up something interesting: During his couple of years of rehab, his body began to feel tight and tense from lifting weights so often. He had to tone it down.

He wanted to feel looser.

“Be able to be a little bit more whippy,” he said, “rather than being so muscle-bound.”

Anderson’s fastball is averaging around 94 mph. “I’d still like it to be a little bit higher, but I think that’s something that’s just going to come the more I get into that rhythm,” he said. He’s not focused on the velocity. He simply wants everything to be in sync.

“You don’t have to throw 100 (mph) to get outs,” Anderson said. “It’s just like some days you go out and you don’t get a strikeout, and other days you go out and strike out the side. That’s the way it works out. As long as I’m going out and competing and doing as much as I can to help the team win, whatever spot that’s in, that’s really all that matters.”

And right now, he’s doing that. Anderson has been a reliable eighth-inning reliever. He’s allowed one earned run over his past seven appearances. At a time when A.J. Minter has struggled, Anderson’s emergence has been huge for the Braves, who bet on his health in signing him.

Even still, the Braves optioned Anderson toward the end of spring training. Had it not been for a couple of guys beginning the season on the injured list, Anderson wouldn’t have made the opening-day roster.

“I mean, I’ve been through enough in my life that not everything goes the way that you want it to or the way that you plan, or whatever,” he said. “I try not to plan a lot of things, so then when stuff doesn’t happen or something doesn’t go your way, you don’t get flustered. You just kind of stay on track and you just roll with the punches. It’s kind of how I’ve lived my life, honestly. It’s just another situation that I was like, ‘Welp.’

“Life’s so much about timing. And especially professional sports, it’s a lot about timing. There’s a lot of good athletes in the minor leagues that could play in the big leagues, but timing, you just gotta wait for the time and when you get your time, hopefully make the most of it. In spring, it was just kind of one of those times, it was like, ‘All right, it didn’t work out or whatever. I still gotta go do my job. The opportunity will present itself at some time as long as I take care of my performance.’”

The opportunity presented itself, and he began the season in the majors. He has stayed up ever since.

“I’ve been super happy,” he said.

Baseball always is a grind. And when injuries occur, it becomes even more difficult.

In spring training, Anderson said he wanted to have fun playing baseball again. So is he having fun?

“Way more fun,” he said.