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Gohara arrives at camp with heavy heart

Braves pitching prospect returning to work after death of father
MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- A jetlagged Luiz Gohara arrived in Braves camp on Wednesday morning with the heavy heart he has carried since December, when he experienced the traumatic pain of literally feeling his father pass away.

"When I took him to the hospital, he just passed away in my arms," Gohara said as his voice slightly cracked. "The doctors really didn't know what made him die."

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- A jetlagged Luiz Gohara arrived in Braves camp on Wednesday morning with the heavy heart he has carried since December, when he experienced the traumatic pain of literally feeling his father pass away.

"When I took him to the hospital, he just passed away in my arms," Gohara said as his voice slightly cracked. "The doctors really didn't know what made him die."

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What should have been an offseason filled with celebration and anticipation instead evolved into one that challenged the mental strength of Gohara, a 21-year-old left-handed pitcher who burst on the Major League scene last September and proved why it's not just his frame that leads many to compare him to CC Sabathia.

After vaulting from the Class A Advanced level to the Majors within a span of five months, Gohara completed at least six innings in four of the five starts he made for Atlanta. He returned to his native Brazil, excited about the chance to share his experiences with his 58-year-old father, Luiz, who spent nearly a decade playing professionally as a catcher in Japan.

Video: Top Prospects: Luiz Gohara, LHP, Braves

All seemed to be normal during the first few weeks of the offseason. But as November neared, the elder Gohara became sluggish and spent a lot of time in bed. His condition continued to deteriorate leading up to the fateful December day, when young Luiz put his father in a car and then watched him take his last breath as they reached the hospital.

Two months later, the pain still seems raw for the Braves pitcher, who considered his father to be both his mentor and biggest fan. Medical officials still have not identified the cause of death.

"He's the one that would call me after games and talk to me before I would go pitch," Gohara said. "I guess I've got to do it by myself now."

Video: Gohara discusses his comfortability in Majors

After taking an eight-hour flight from Brazil to Orlando, Fla., on Tuesday, Gohara was reintroduced to Florida's humidity on Wednesday as he participated in the first workout for Braves pitchers and catchers. Still, he wore a bright smile as he walked through the clubhouse and suddenly remembered he needed to call his mother, Maria, who was recently diagnosed with some heart problems.

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"It was a tough offseason," Gohara said. "It was hard to leave [Brazil], but you've got to go to work."

Ranked by MLB Pipeline as the No. 49 overall prospect and the No. 4 left-handed pitching prospect, Gohara has the potential to quickly establish himself as one of baseball's top young pitchers. He reported to camp with essentially the same large frame he had last year. While the Braves want him to remain healthy, they have never pushed for him to significantly alter it.

"The kid is never going to be skinny," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I don't want him coming in here skinny. He's a big man, but that being said, he's athletic. He's going to lose some weight down here with the [hot] conditions and consistent work."

Per Statcast™, Gohara's 96.5 mph average fastball velocity ranked sixth among all left-handed pitchers who threw at least 200 fastballs last season. After issuing four walks and lasting just four innings in his Sept. 6 Major League debut, he recorded 25 strikeouts and issued just four walks over the 25 1/3 innings completed in his next four starts.

"He's got a big arm, but he throws the ball over [the plate]," said Snitker. "That always sticks out with young guys, because a lot of guys have stuff, but the strike zone isn't real consistent with some of those guys. It looks like he has the ability to throw the ball where he wants to. His stuff is live and it's big. I love the way he competes. The guys that played with him at Triple-A have told me, 'This is the guy you want on your team on gameday.'"

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Luiz Gohara