LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Brandon McCarthy has not yet reached the point of his career where he is willing to simply be considered a mentor. But he's certainly more than willing to use his experience to help guide the young pitchers who will join him in Atlanta's rotation this
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Brandon McCarthy has not yet reached the point of his career where he is willing to simply be considered a mentor. But he's certainly more than willing to use his experience to help guide the young pitchers who will join him in Atlanta's rotation this season.
"I'm not going to yell at people or anything like that," McCarthy said. "I'm just a guy who has been around longer, and has been through a lot of ups and downs. At least if I'm a sounding board, if people have questions, then great."
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When the Braves acquired him via a swap of expensive contracts that sent Matt Kemp to the Dodgers in December, McCarthy might have actually found the optimal spot for him to revitalize his career. The 6-foot-8 right-hander has routinely battled injuries since his strong finish during the 2014 season with the Yankees, which netted him his current four-year, $48 million deal.
After signing with the Dodgers, McCarthy underwent Tommy John surgery during the early portion of the 2015 season. The 34-year-old hurler made 10 appearances (nine starts ) in 2016, and seemed to be back on track last season before he injured his left shoulder while lifting weights. He was healthy enough to be added to the World Series roster as a reliever, but he surrendered a decisive 11th-inning home run during his only appearance.
Now McCarthy has a chance to extend his career with the rebuilding Braves, who are simply hoping he can provide somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 innings and provide guidance to their other young starters. The other projected members of the rotation are Julio Teheran, Mike Foltynewicz, Sean Newcomb and Luiz Gohara. Teheran is the only member of the group who has made at least 70 career starts. Newcomb and Gohara made their respective Major League debuts last year.
"I've watched Folty's stuff for years," McCarthy said. "I know how good his stuff is, and Julio as well. Some of the other guys I'm a little less familiar with, but I'll pick it up pretty quick as we go. I tend to follow scouting and recruiting, so I'm familiar with a lot of their names and I know how good they have been.
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A bothersome blessing
This marks the fourth straight year Daniel Winkler has come to Braves Spring Training with his status linked to the Rule 5 Draft restrictions. The right-handed reliever has financially benefited -- he's already arbitration-eligible despite totaling just 18 1/3 career innings -- from this unique situation that was created by a pair of right elbow injuries. But he's ready to separate himself from this chapter of his career.
"The Braves have been great as they have believed in me the whole time," Winkler said. "But I just want to be a normal player. I just want to be one of the guys. With the Rule 5, I'm tired of talking about it."
Winkler was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery when the Braves took him out of the Rockies' system during the 2014 Rule 5 Draft. He made his Major League debut the following September, and saw his 2016 season end after just seven days, when he fractured his elbow while throwing a pitch.
Winkler returned in 2017 and tallied 42 of the 76 days he has been on an active roster. He needs to be on Atlanta's active roster for 90 days before losing the Rule 5 restrictions, which stipulate that the Braves would first have to offer him back to the Rockies before optioning him to the Minors. If he's placed on the Opening Day roster, and remains healthy, this restriction would expire near the conclusion of the regular season's second full week.
Winkler, who posted a 2.51 ERA in 14 appearances last year, will always deal with the discomfort created by the two-inch screw that was placed in his right elbow. But he feels good about his velocity, and has come to camp confident he can win a roster spot just like he did in 2016.
"It's not exactly new territory," Winkler said. "I've still got to come in and earn a job. I've done it once. So, I think I can come in and do it again."
The Braves have recently had a scarcity of quality catching depth within their organization. But William Contreras, who has never played above the Rookie level, has shown some potential, and Alex Jackson, who was converted from an outfielder to a catcher last year, has at least become an intriguing option.
There's no reason to doubt the power potential possessed by Jackson, who dropped some jaws with a couple of long blasts he hit during Thursday's batting practice. But some scouts have noticed some holes in his swing, and there is still reason to wonder if he is capable of defensively handling the catching position.
"I'm hearing some good things," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "The kid is improving. He still has some work to do. He has a good arm and he receives the ball well. One of the things I'm anxious to see and watch is him catch in some games. You watch him take batting practice and it's something else. The ball just flies off his bat."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.