Charlie Morton: It’s nice to put Braves uniform back on

Credit: Atlanta Braves

Pitcher Charlie Morton addresses joining the Braves again and his comfort level with the team.

Credit: Atlanta Braves

Charlie Morton is back with the Braves, but everything from the uniforms to the hats to the roster is quite different.

Morton, a Braves prospect over a decade ago, returned to the organization that nurtured him into a major leaguer this winter. Now 37 years old, Morton comes back a renowned veteran with a noted postseason track record.

In his first few days of camp, it hasn’t felt totally like a homecoming.

“The uniform is a little bit different,” Morton said. “The hats are fitted for spring. The group is very different. There’s some staff I know here, but the facility is very different from Disney. It doesn’t feel the same. And obviously I’m at a different place in my career. But it’s nice to put that uniform back on.”

Morton is an instrumental part of the 2021 Braves and their World Series expectations. They signed Morton to a one-year, $15 million deal to solidify their rotation. Importantly, Morton should bolster their postseason odds. He was part of the 2017 World Series champion Astros and helped the Rays win the American League pennant last season.

“He’s the same guy I remembered,” manager Brian Snitker said of Morton. “Nothing has changed him, the success, the experience. He brings instant credibility to this, what he’s accomplished, the things he’s done, the postseason success, what he’s been through in his career. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience and hopefully our young guys tap into that and get to know him, ask him questions. I’ve always liked Charlie. He’s a wonderful young man.”

Braves pitching coach Rick Kranitz (left) and manager Brian Snitker oversee players as they gather for first workout for pitchers and catchers Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, at the team's facility in North Port, Fla. (Bill Willias/Atlanta Braves)
Braves pitching coach Rick Kranitz (left) and manager Brian Snitker oversee players as they gather for first workout for pitchers and catchers Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, at the team's facility in North Port, Fla. (Bill Willias/Atlanta Braves)

Credit: Atlanta Braves

Credit: Atlanta Braves

Spring training notes:

- Three-time champion and switch-hitter Pablo Sandoval is among the veteran competing for a bench spot at camp. Sandoval joined the Braves late last season, and while he didn’t log much time, he made an impression.

“He brings instant credibility with what he’s been through,” Snitker said. “I know we didn’t use him that much, but having him here, the player he is, the person he is, I’m excited to get him in camp also. We’re looking for guys for bench roles and Pablo fits that description. We’ll use spring training and see where he stacks up. A guy with that experience could be a great help in that role.”

- Unless the Braves add a veteran in the coming weeks, youngsters William Contreras and Alex Jackson are competing for the back-up catcher role behind Travis d’Arnaud. The duo has a combined 13 games of experience, though both opened the 2020 season on the major-league roster because d’Arnaud and Tyler Flowers were sidelined due to COVID-19 protocols.

“They both handled themselves very well,” Snitker said. “They’re both growing. Physically, mentally, I think it was a great opportunity for both of those guys to see the reality of where they’re at.”

Snitker individually praised five younger catchers: Jackson, Contreras, Shea Langeliers, Jonathan Morales and Logan Brown. “That’s five very talented young catchers. We haven’t had that in a long, long time here, if ever. I’m not sure if I’ve been in a big-league camp that boasts five players with those skill sets.”

Braves catching coach Sal Fasano (left) works with catcher Shea Langeliers during workouts Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, at the team facility North Port, Fla. (Bill Willias/Atlanta Braves)
Braves catching coach Sal Fasano (left) works with catcher Shea Langeliers during workouts Friday, Feb. 19, 2021, at the team facility North Port, Fla. (Bill Willias/Atlanta Braves)

Credit: Atlanta Braves

Credit: Atlanta Braves

- The Braves have not named Cristian Pache their starting center fielder. They also haven’t said there’s a centerfield competition. So while Pache starting in center remains the expectation, the Braves have left the door open for Ender Inciarte or other options.

“We’ll see how spring training goes,” Snitker said. “I love what Pache did, but it’s like you tell all those young guys, you don’t have a baseball card yet. You have to come in and earn your way. We’ll see. I’m not going to say it’s a competition or anything like that. We’re going to have spring training and everybody is going to get the chance to play a lot and we’ll see what happens.

- Reliever Victor Arano will be a late arrival to camp due to visa issues, Snitker said. Arano, formerly of the Phillies, was stalled by injuries in the past two seasons but has a fair amount of upside. He posted a 2.37 ERA with 60 strikeouts against 17 walks in 60 appearances in 2018.

- Hall of Famer Chipper Jones is a new part-time major-league hitting consultant for the Braves. Jones is expected to report with the position players in the coming days and “probably stay the bulk of spring,” Snitker said.

“He’s going to be a great resource for the coaches, players and myself,” Snitker said. “He’s going to help make us better.”

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