Hale excited to join Braves ‘pen

David Hale has come a long way from the days when he used to see Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez or pitching coach Roger McDowell at the Publix and hesitate to even approach them. Now he’s on their pitching staff.

The Marietta native, graduate of The Walker School, and neighbor to both Gonzalez and McDowell in Cobb County just earned his first major-league call-up and a September cup of coffee.

“I’ve got to put him in,” said Gonzalez, who lives in a nearby subdivision to the Hales. “I might get stuff in the front yard.”

Hale was 6-9 with a 3.22 ERA in 22 games (20 starts) for Gwinnett. He had 10 quality starts in 14 outings while putting up a 2.26 ERA after returning from a month out to rest a sore shoulder. He was already on the 40-man roster and gave the Braves reason to add him to their bullpen and take a closer look.

“It’s a reward for a good season, an extra arm and a chance to see what he’s got for next year too,” said Gonzalez, whose only immediate plans were for Hale to pitch in relief.

Hale was packing up his Gwinnett apartment Wednesday evening after the end of the season Triple-A season and heading to his parents’ house when he got the call from assistant general manager Bruce Manno.

“I called my dad up; my mom started crying, they were all excited,” said Hale, who grew up a Braves fan and remembers watching David Justice homer in Game 6 of the 1995 World Series at age 8. “She probably still is actually.”

Hale figured his next move would be to start getting ready for winter ball in Venezuela, something the Braves had been planning for him to do.

“If I can use this as my winter ball time…,” Hale said with a smile. “Then I would be very happy to stay in the States.”

Hale is used to busy offseasons. He finished his economics degree from Princeton University by going back for fall semesters after his first two minor league seasons. He graduated in 2011. He might have joined some of his classmates in a career in finance if not for his pitching prowess.

Instead the former third round draft pick in 2009 found himself wandering out to the field Friday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.

“It’s beautiful,” said Hale, 25. “It’s incredible seeing three, four tiers of seats compared to what we play in in the minor leagues.”

He was only about an hour’s train ride from Princeton.

“I think it’s nice to start on the road, kind of get the nerves out, then head home,” Hale said. “Either way, I’d love to step on that mound.”