“The talent level here is incredible. Just meeting the young guys and hearing baseball people I respect talk about them, how good they’re going to be, it’s made an impression on me.”
The bullpen could use a boost, but the Braves haven’t yet seen value in the reliever market. Even during these free-agent dark days, relievers are cashing in. O’Day was a forward-thinking move, one in which the Braves knew could pay off in 2019.
“A guy with experience, a guy who’ll bring life to the bullpen,” fellow reliever A.J. Minter said. “He’ll make everyone comfortable. Not going to hound you, (he will) make you feel part of the team. He’s going to be huge for us.”
Meanwhile, Soroka was limited to five major-league starts last season because of shoulder inflammation. The Canadian righty often is regarded as the franchise’s best pitching prospect, and he’ll enter camp a favorite for the fifth spot in the rotation.
Soroka threw a few bullpen sessions in instructional league in October, going 100 percent. Early feedback indicated it was successful, and the Braves anticipated he wouldn’t be restricted in March. The team will still handle him carefully, especially knowing this would be his first full major-league season, but it’s evident a healthy Soroka will be a key part of the club.
“He feels good, he’s healthy, but he did miss a significant amount of time,” manager Brian Snitker said. “So we’re going to be cognizant of that. We don’t need him April 1. We want to make sure we have him later in the year, too, and get him through a full season.”
Wise beyond his years, Soroka impressed everyone around the organization and likely was staying in the rotation through the rest of season. When he went down, other youngsters – Touki Toussaint among them – stepped up to fill the void. Soroka will now compete with those players for a concrete role behind Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb, Kevin Gausman and Julio Teheran.
“To see your friends (contribute in the majors) is always special,” Soroka said. “It’s definitely a little bittersweet being in Orlando (at the Braves’ facilities) and watching on TV. You want to be there. You want to be helping the club. But I think … when you go down like that and come back, it makes it that much sweeter. So that’s something I’m trying to do, and hopefully I can help the club out like they did this next year.”