Braves pitcher Max Fried delivers a pitch on Thursday Feb. 16, 2017, at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

Max Fried reflects on first appearance, new relief role

Max Fried looked around the bullpen, pointed a finger at himself and asked for clarification when he was informed he would take the mound for the eighth inning of the Braves’ 5-2 loss to the Phillies on Tuesday.

Fried entered his first game three days after he was promoted from Double-A Mississippi. He threw two scoreless innings, allowing two hits and a pair of walks with one strikeout.

“I almost didn’t believe it,” he said. “There have been a couple times the phone rang and I might’ve gone in, it didn’t happen. (Bullpen coach) Marty Reed looked at me and said, ‘You’re next.’ And I was like, ‘Me?’ Just making sure. So I got up immediately and the adrenaline started pumping. It had all just fallen into place.”

Fried threw 17 pitches in the eighth. He issued a walk to Cameron Rupp and recorded his first strikeout on a curveball to Cameron Perkins.

The Phillies’ Odubel Herrera took advantage of a hanging curve to hit a two-out double in Fried’s second inning of work. After intentionally walking Tommy Joseph, Nick Williams recorded an infield hit, but Herrera was thrown out at home and Fried escaped without damage.

Fried’s fastball topped out at 95, but it was his curveball that caused some awe. Fried doesn’t know how the pitch gets so much break, saying he simply tested different grips until he found the one that worked.

“He’s got a good one,” Braves catcher Kurt Suzuki said. “There’s a big difference, contrast compared to his heater. So I think it throws hitters off a little bit. But his heater’s got a little bit of life on it and that breaking ball’s got a lot of break to it.”

Suzuki, who caught Fried in both innings, came away impressed with the rookie’s poise.

“Shoot, I thought he threw the ball good,” he said. “I was expecting him to be nervous, but he seemed pretty composed out there. He went out and threw strikes, mixed in some breaking balls, change-up. I thought he pitched well.

“It didn’t look like he needed any calming down or anything. He was out there. He knew what he wanted to do and he did it.”

The night was a new experience in more ways than one for the 23-year-old lefty. It was the first time Fried had come out of the bullpen. The Braves will continue using Fried in a relief capacity to keep his innings down. It’s requiring a change in his routine.

“It’s definitely really different,” Fried said. “You have to stay loose and locked in through the whole game instead of knowing when you’re going to pitch and having a whole day to prepare. The phone rings and you see who’s called next. It’s a little different but I enjoyed it.”

With the first-appearance jitters out of the way, Fried has something to build on. His biggest takeaway: Control the adrenaline.

“Not get ready too fast,” he said. “I kind of threw a lot. It was really fast-paced. So I need to slow it down and know that I’ve got more time than I think.”

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