Q&A: Austin Riley discusses rise through minors, previous knee injury

Braves third-base prospect Austin Riley met with the media at Chop Fest on Jan. 19 at SunTrust Park. In the interview, he discussed a previous knee injury, moving up through the Braves organization and practicing in the outfield. The interview was edited for brevity. 

Q: What’s this winter been like for you? Been working out? I know you were here a couple of weeks ago. You been in Atlanta a lot?

A: No, just here last week for the little hitting camp. I’ve been back home in Mississippi, got married in November, so been dealing with that and honeymoon and stuff. It’s been pretty quick, but it’s been good. Body feels great, arm, everything baseball wise is going right along. 

Q: Once you came back from the knee, did you have any more problems with that?

A: No, not any pain. I think it was more of a mind thing, relying on it to be 100 percent once I initially came back. But once that was gone it was like I had never gotten injured.

Q: How did you do your knee anyway? Was it just a turn wrong or something?

A: No, I was actually, I dove into third, rounding second and diving into third, and just felt it kind of give out on me. Finished the game, did a little rehab to make it feel better. Then we were in Louisville, Kentucky, there and the shift, I was playing shortstop, fly ball by third and I dove for it, and that’s when I really felt it. 

Q: Do you think the knee was a setback for you at all as far as, do you think it might have been possible if you had never gotten hurt, or do you not allow yourself to think that you would’ve been ready this year?

A: You know, I like to think that, but at the same time it’s kind of out of my judgment. I think it would have put up some more numbers, more home runs, that kind of thing, if I wouldn’t have gotten hurt. Just that much quicker at getting acclimated to Triple-A. But like I said at the end of the day, it is what it is, I feel great, in great shape, and ready for spring. 

Q: How about the outfield, they talking about playing you there?

A: Yeah, I’m all up for it. Whatever it takes to get me to the big leagues, I’m going to do whatever it takes. 

Q: Will you have taken fly balls before you get down there? 

A: Yeah I’m doing them right now, I’m doing some drills now. Mizuno sent me an outfielders glove, which is a lot bigger than what I’m used to. I’m doing some outfielder drills, so it’s good. 

Q: Did you ever play there in high school?

A: No, never have. It will be a little different, but I’m sure I can be somebody that can make do. 

Q: How was last year for you, shooting up the chart for the Braves, being in the Braves’ system? How was that different for you? It seemed like after the Arizona Fall League or so, is where we started to hear a lot about you. Did that change anything, your focus or mindset on the game?

A: No, it didn’t change anything at all. At the end of the day you still have to go out there and perform, and there is always room for improvement. Yeah it may of given me a little bit of “hey I’m getting closer,” kind of thing, but like I said, at the end of the day, you know I’m just going to keep getting better and when the time comes it comes. 

Q: Will (Josh) Donaldson be considered something of a lock for now, but it could also be an opportunity to learn from him a little during the spring, so when you see that opportunity to maybe pick his brain a little bit?

A: Oh yeah for sure. We’re actually in the same agency, with MVP, so talking to Matt my agent he said he’s a great guy, and I’m very anxious to get down there. And like you said, he’s one of the best in the game, so it’s going to be ears open to anything he has to say.

Q: Being a top prospect in the organization, do you think about getting traded?

A: No, I guess you hear your name in all kinds of trade rumors. I mean, what are the chances of me staying with the Braves for my whole career? Probably very slim, but you know, I love it here and I try not to think about that. 

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