Friday was a long time coming for Patrick Weigel, the big Braves righty whose chance at achieving his life-long dream appeared to be robbed by injury.
Weigel, another arm in the Braves’ batch of prospects, could’ve debuted a couple of seasons ago, when Sean Newcomb and Ozzie Albies broke through, ushering in the ensuing parade of youth that would guide the Braves back to the postseason.
Instead, Weigel underwent Tommy John surgery June 27, 2017, delaying a debut that otherwise was slated for that summer. While the Braves finished what would be their last losing season of their rebuild, Weigel was recovering after visiting Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, Florida.
“He’s been through a lot,” manager Brian Snitker said. “If he hadn’t have got hurt, I’d probably assume he’d have been part of this club right now anyway.”
And that’s what made Friday all-the-more special. Weigel, who at 25 is notably older than most debuts of which the Braves have grown accustomed, was unexpectedly informed Thursday night that he’d become a major leaguer.
“It means everything to me,” he said. “This is a dream I’ve had since I was a little kid. I’ve overcome a lot as far as surgery-wise. It’s just really sweet to be here. I’m trying to take this in as much as I can.”
Manager Brian Snitker singled out Weigel several times in the offseason and spring training, noting how promising the right-hander was before the injury. Weigel had a 2.89 ERA across seven starts in Double-A in 2017, warranting a promotion to Triple-A. He struggled with a 5.27 ERA before tearing his UCL after eight starts.
In Weigel’s return to action, he’s shown flashes while being plagued by walks. To begin the season, Weigel dominated in Double-A Mississippi to earn an early promotion back to Triple-A Gwinnett. He had a 3.43 ERA with the Stripers with a 36:24 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 11 games (44-2/3 innings).
“Once I got to Gwinnett and got stretched out to those 90 pitches (per start), I felt like I was a full-time starter again,” he said. “I felt like I can close the chapter on (the injury) and move forward. … It’s made me a better player and a better person. To go through that adversity and knowing I can overcome something like that, it’s more than just baseball at that point.”
Weigel is another massive pitching prospect, looking every bit of his listed 6-foot-6, 240-pound frame. The hard-throwing Weigel has strikeout material with a fastball and slider that he uses on both sides of the plate.
He’ll operate strictly as a reliever for now, which he’s perfectly happy to do. His addition adds length to the bullpen, which was shortened when outfielder Ender Inciarte returned from the injured list and the Braves elected to carry an additional position player.
“Just watching this team, I couldn’t be more excited to contribute in whatever role that may be,” Weigel said. “We (the younger players) all came up together, we all played together in the lower minor leagues, went through the grind together. It’s so awesome to see all these guys have success.
“We love going back and forth at each other and supporting each other. It’s so cool to take a step back and watch (Mike) Soroka in the All-Star game, along with (Max) Fried, Touki (Toussaint), all the guys we’ve come up with. It’s been awesome.”
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