Ozzie Albies’ bid to build upon an encouraging 2019 season was derailed by a right wrist injury that began to affect his play less than a week into last year’s shortened season.
But given a chance to rest during the offseason, the second baseman has returned to Braves camp feeling healthy and motivated to prove he remains one of baseball’s best young talents.
“When you’re healthier, everything is easier,” Albies said. “It was just about resting and getting myself back to normal.”
Where did Albies stand at this point last year, when his career statistics included a .279 batting average, 54 homers and an .806 OPS?
Well, Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray were the only other switch-hitters to hit .275 with at least 50 homers and an .800 OPS through the first three years of their career at age 22 or younger.
It looked as if Albies would continue building on that success when he tallied three hits -- two doubles and a homer -- as the Braves beat the Mets during ESPN’s first Sunday Night Baseball broadcast last summer.
But though the season’s first weekend concluded in impressive fashion, the next week would be better described as uncomfortable for Albies. He went 4-for-29 with no extra-base hits over his next eight games and was placed on the injured list on Aug. 5 with a right wrist bone contusion. The painful ailment, which actually began bothering him a few days before the regular season began, sidelined him until Sept. 9.
Albies hit .338 with five homers and a .953 OPS over the 18 regular-season games he played after being activated on Sept. 9. He extended this success into the postseason, when he posted a .774 OPS over 12 games and homered in both of the first two games of the National League Championship Series.
A healthy and productive Albies would add to the strength of a potent Braves lineup capable of helping the team make yet another deep postseason run.
“[Last year] brings more confidence to the team because we already know what we are capable of doing,” Albies said. “We got to go out there extra hungrier now and just get it done.”
The Braves still haven’t said whether Mike Soroka will be available for the start of the season. In fact, no timetable has been set for the 23-year-old right-hander, who is attempting to return from the torn right Achilles tendon he suffered on Aug. 3.
But the good news is that there have been no setbacks for Soroka, who has been throwing off a mound regularly since approximately Jan. 20. His Spring Training workouts have included running exercises, which have been completed on an every-other-day basis.
“I think he’s right on time with everything they are putting him through and where they think he should be,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “I know they’ve put him through a lot of drills on the mound with comebackers and [fielding] bunts. There hasn’t been any setbacks, and he is checking all their boxes.”
Hall of Fame instruction
Chipper Jones has made his presence felt since arriving in Braves camp earlier this week to begin his role as a hitting consultant. The Hall of Fame third baseman is slated to remain with the club during most of Spring Training and then be present for the hours leading up to most home games this year.
“Chipper is all over the place out there,” Snitker said. “He’s watching all the guys. He’s been very active in the batting cages. It’s been awesome having him here. I love seeing him every day and having him be a part of this thing.”
Kyle Wright will get the start when the Braves play the Rays in a Grapefruit League opener on Sunday in Port Charlotte, Fla. Wright will attempt to extend last year’s late-season success while bidding for a rotation spot. Sean Newcomb and Carl Edwards Jr. are among the other pitchers scheduled to appear for Atlanta. First pitch is set for 1:05 p.m. ET.