Notes: Culberson returns; Hamels arriving soon

February 16th, 2020

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- Though he was bothered by being removed from the 40-man roster this offseason, arrived at Spring Training on Sunday with the same great personality and sense of humor that has made him a beloved member of the Braves’ clubhouse.

“I’m glad to still be playing, especially coming back from the end of last year,” Culberson said.

Culberson’s 2019 season ended on Sept. 14, when he was hit in the face while trying to bunt against Nationals reliever Fernando Rodney. As he recovered from the multiple facial fractures during the offseason, he was surprised to learn he was being non-tendered and removed from Atlanta’s 40-man roster.

The Braves wanted to give him a chance to find a guaranteed contract. But they were always willing to bring him back with the Minor League deal that was completed a week after he was non-tendered.

Culberson has a good chance to open the season on the Braves' 26-man Opening Day roster. But he has come to camp with no guarantees.

“I’m going to work my tail off,” Culberson said. “We’ll worry about one day at a time. But hopefully, I can force their hand to where this won’t happen again.”

Culberson hit 12 homers, many of the clutch variety, and produced a .792 OPS while logging 322 plate appearances for the 2018 Braves. But he had a .731 OPS and five homers while drawing just 144 plate appearances last year.

Culberson will wear a special batting helmet that provides extra protection, and he has been pleased with the comfort he has felt since starting to take batting practice more than a month ago. He joked that he homered against the first batting-practice pitch that Braves advance scout Braeden Schlehuber threw to him in a batting cage this offseason.

“As long as I go out there and hit more home runs, maybe they won’t ask me to bunt anymore,” Culberson said. “It’s just kind of a joke that kind of eases things for myself. I’ve got to have fun with it, too. It happened. It was a freak accident, but it’s all good.”

Hamels expected to arrive soon
is still at least a few weeks away from being cleared to resume his throwing program. But Hamels has been encouraged by how his sore left shoulder has improved over the past few days, and he will likely join his new Braves teammates at their Spring Training complex later this week.

“The reports are good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “[Trainer George Poulis] has been talking to him and I think [the recovery] is going exactly how they had planned. That’s good news. He’ll be here sooner than later just to get him acclimated.”

TP and Eddie
Since being removed from Atlanta’s coaching staff following the 2017 season, Terry Pendleton and Eddie Perez have remained heavily involved with the organization’s player-development efforts. They’ve routinely worked with Minor League prospects and continued to remain close to Snitker, who has both on his Spring Training coaching staff.

“I wanted both of them in camp this year,” Snitker said. “They add a lot. They’re lifelong Braves. I think they’re both enjoying their roles. I don’t know if I’ve seen TP happier. He comes in early to work our camp and then goes over there to work [the Minor League] camp and then goes to take rides [on his motorcycle]. He’s having a ball. It’s great that those kids can work with guys like that who bring instant credibility.”

Up next
Freddie Freeman was among the early arrivals when he came to camp on Sunday. Position players are required to report by Monday and the club’s first full-squad workout will be staged on Tuesday. Fans may enter CoolToday Park for free at 9:30 a.m. ET on non-game days.