How ‘aggressive’ Hurston Waldrep is attacking Braves spring training

NORTH PORT, Fla. – The Braves hold meetings with players upon their arrival to big-league spring training. It is an opportunity for them to get to know the guys in camp.

When Hurston Waldrep met with team officials, he told them exactly who he would be.

“I’m aggressive. I’m aggressive with everything I do,” Waldrep said. “I’m very diligent with my work, I’m very diligent with everything off the field. As far as baseball goes, I feel like I try to do as much as I can to prepare for this long season. And so I wanted to make sure that they knew that, and they knew that I’m here to work, I’m here to do everything possible to help this organization, and that that’s all I care about.”

On a daily basis, Waldrep’s aggressiveness is seen in how he takes advantage of opportunities and doesn’t take time for granted. An example: After Saturday’s outing – the first spring game of his career – he arrived at the complex early on Sunday to get a head start on his recovery.

Waldrep, after all, is still adjusting to pitching more frequently than he did in college, where starters throw once a week. Those extra days mean a lot, and Waldrep is trying to condition his body for a professional workload.

On Saturday, the top prospect fired two scoreless innings. He walked two, but struck out two. Most importantly, he learned from the experience.

“I think you see he’s really a focused kid and mature, and (has) an idea of what he wants to do,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said on Sunday. “Shoot, he’s got all the upside in the world. Holy cow, with an arm like that, are you kidding me? That’s pretty impressive.”

He threw a first-pitch ball to three of the four hitters he faced in his first inning. “Just really working on getting ahead early,” said Waldrep, who hurled first-pitch strikes to the three batters he saw in his second frame, even if one at-bat resulted in a walk. He wants to take advantage of counts when he’s ahead.

His good stuff gives him confidence, even if he isn’t complacent.

“Just knowing that I have the stuff to finish counts, so taking advantage of when I am ahead, but also knowing that, when I am behind, that I don’t have to panic, but I can easily get back in the count, trust my stuff,” Waldrep said. “Not necessarily being comfortable being behind in the count, but not panicking, not overthinking, not trying to do too much when I do get behind.”

Waldrep seems like a longshot to make the team out of camp. He has plenty of talent and potential, but seasoning in the minors might be best for the 22-year-old righty. He has a lot to learn, even if you can see the potential that could make him an elite starter in the future.

When Waldrep finished his season last fall, the Braves had one directive for him: Recover. Between college and the minors, he completed 131 innings.

“It was a long year last year,” Waldrep said. “It was a lot of innings, a lot of moving around, a lot of new stuff, a lot of new faces. That’s a lot of stimulus. And so to recover from all that stimulus and really just allow the brain to relax and chill out. The body felt really, really good after that year and knowing that I was able to handle all those innings and not feel broken down physically. But really just prepare for this year, prepare to handle that much stimulus again, and possibly even more.”

So, Waldrep relaxed. He went home and sat. And rested. And rested a bit more.

Soon, it hit him: He missed it – all of it.

“It really makes you appreciate baseball,” he said. “It really makes you appreciate how quick this game is.”