Q&A: Braves pitcher Spencer Strider

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

NORTH PORT, Fla. — Last year, he made the opening-day roster … as a reliever.

This time around, Spencer Strider enters the season toward the front of the Braves’ rotation. He possesses Cy Young talent. He could lead the league in strikeouts.

The sky’s the limit for Strider, whose stuff is mesmerizing. But his talent is matched by his work ethic and dedication.

Ahead of opening day, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did Q&As with several key Braves players.

Q: What did you learn most from last year?

A: I think trusting your stuff, trusting myself. There’s days where you feel really good, days where you feel really bad. There’s the urge or the insecurity to change what you’re doing based on the type of stuff, and you can’t do that. The reason you’re here is because you are good enough to perform. So as long as you just kind of zero in on who that is and what your strengths are, usually you get good results.

Q: When you were younger, which pitchers did you look up to and try to emulate?

A: Definitely Corey Kluber. Who else that I really like? I mean, I’ve always liked Gerrit Cole – even now, he’s one of my favorite pitchers to watch. There were guys like Walker Buehler that I remember watching in college. I felt like he had a similar pitching style to myself. So it’s been cool to see those guys play, some of them in person and now be in the league with them.

Q: Was there a certain batter that, when you first faced him, you were like, ‘Holy cow, I’m here’?

A: Francisco Lindor, for me, in my debut in 2021. I mean, I’ve got his bobblehead in my room. It was kind of like, ‘Oh, (expletive). There he is.’

(Context: Strider grew up a Cleveland sports fan, which is why he rooted for Kluber, Lindor and others.)

Q: What happened in that at-bat?

A: I think he singled off me.

Q: That was Oct. 1 (of 2021), right?

A: Yeah. I can’t remember the sequence. Because I went pop-out, homer. I think (Lindor) singled.

Q: Who was the homer?

A: A Brandon Nimmo homer. Two-strike slider down and in, just turned on it. Can’t get that guy out, to this day.

Q: What has it been like to have been with these guys for a full season and experience the culture in this clubhouse?

A: It’s great. Watching some other guys that come in this year, how quickly they seem comfortable seems cool. It kind of affirms that we’re being open and sociable. That was the experience I had last year was everybody was very aware that I was new and uncomfortable at times, and so they wanted to help and kind of make me feel comfortable so that I could perform, because that’s really the goal. Yeah, I mean, we all get along. We’re here early, stay late, and it’s a great environment.

Q: What has it been like throwing to Sean Murphy so far?

A: Really good. He’s just a good dude and a great baseball mind. It’s fun to have two different guys that you can kind of bounce ideas back off of between him and Travis (d’Arnaud). I think they learn a lot from each other, which is cool to see. Sean’s been terrific; he’s a phenomenal player.

Q: You’ve been pretty open about how, in high school, you didn’t know if you would ever make it here. What advice would you have for other kids in that spot now?

A: Definitely be patient, but at the same time, that doesn’t mean be hands off. You have to seek out improvement. There’s something to be said for letting time improve you. Nothing big can be accomplished overnight. But the answers are out there somewhere, you just have to find them. And sometimes that takes more work in certain areas than others, whether it’s your diet or your lifting, or whatever it is, your throwing. You’re your own best coach; you’re going to have to go facilitate those changes and improvements on your own.

Q: Can this team go all the way?

A: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, that’s the great thing about the sport, is that any team, whatever they look like on paper, is capable of winning any game. It’s the best team that day that wins the game, not the best team overall sometimes. And, so, I think what we have focused on this spring is making sure that we can raise that floor as much as possible so that we have a better chance of being the best team every day.

Q: Are you a big MLB The Show guy?

A: I haven’t played video games in a few years. Over COVID, I put the console down and walked outside for the first time in my life. For some reason, I just never got back into it. I don’t know if I hit some mature age in my life where I don’t play video games, but, yeah, I do like The Show, though. It was my favorite game.

Q: Are you aware of your rating this year?

(At 94 “overall” – 99 is the highest possible rating – Strider is the highest-rated Braves player on the popular video game. Strider is informed of his rating.)

A: That might not be a fair rating.

Q: The last thing I’ve got for you: Give the people some music recommendations. What do you got?

A: It’s hard for me to do this without looking at my resources. (Pulls out phone.) Let’s go, let’s see. Dream House, JW Francis, terrific album, really fun album. He’s very new – about a month old. What else do we have here? I’ve got Barrie, one of my favorite artists, she’s got a new EP (Extended Play) coming out. Should be very soon. Unknown Mortal Orchestra put out a new album. This album is titled “V.” Really good, listened to it.