Colon hopes new launch angle equals success

Three-run home run result of altered swing path, aggressive approach in hitters' counts

March 3rd, 2018

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Though he'll forever be remembered for delivering the game-winning, 12th-inning single in the decisive Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, it's safe to say has not lived up to expectations since the Royals took him with the fourth overall selection in the 2010 MLB Draft.

With just 386 career plate appearances under his belt, Colon has come to Braves camp as a non-roster invitee, who hopes to enhance his value by placing a greater focus on launch angle. The 28-year-old infielder certainly generated positive results as he homered, and tallied five RBIs in a 9-2 win over the Cardinals on Saturday afternoon at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex.

"I've been working on my swing a bunch, obviously with this whole launch angle stuff," Colon said. "We've been trying to adjust to that, and I'm trying to get the ball in the air at times, without getting away from who I am and the approach that I bring. It's been working out."

Colon has at least kept himself in the conversation for an Opening Day roster spot as he has recorded five hits through his first 13 at-bats of the Grapefruit League season. His only extra-base hit was the three-run homer that snuck over the left-field wall against in Saturday's second inning.

"He's a guy with some versatility," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "I didn't know a lot about him coming in. He looks like a guy that can spray the ball around and he puts the ball in play."

Colon has homered once every 58.25 at-bats and produced a .381 slugging percentage over the past eight seasons at the Minor League level. In 349 big league at-bats, he has produced a slugging percentage (.315) that matches his on-base percentage.

Still, as he attempts to prolong his career, the former first-round selection has evaluated ways to improve his launch angle. His primary focus is to allow himself to be more aggressive with his swing in hitters' counts.

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"It's just kind of a mindset, knowing that if we get a good pitch to hit and you put a good swing on it, let's try to put a little more lift in it," Colon said. "Working with [hitting coach Kevin Seitzer and assistant hitting coach Jose Castro], it's been good to talk about the approach and staying within who you are, but at the same time if the situation calls for it, be ready for it."

Charlie Culberson, who is out of options, is the strong favorite to open this season as the Braves' backup infielder. Thus, Colon could open this season with Triple-A Gwinnett. But as his approach changes, so too could the odds of him spending a lot of time on Atlanta's bench this year.

Roster battle

and Rule 5 Draft pick are favorites to grab two of the three available spots in Atlanta's bullpen. The Braves may opt to fill the final spot with a long-relief candidate -- , , , or Josh Ravin.

But has kept himself in the mix as he has surrendered just two hits and completed 3 1/3 scoreless innings through his first three appearances. The left-handed reliever was taken by the Phillies in the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft.

"The kid has a good arm and you like what you see from him," Snitker said. "He's an interesting guy. He's a big, strong kid and it looks like he has the strike zone. Here's a guy, you see him do well and you kind of think about him. He's just one of those guys that go out and get your attention. At some point in time, you might need him."

Injury update

completed a pain-free bullpen session, ran in the outfield and then jogged toward the dugout near the end of Saturday morning's batting practice. With this series of events, the big left-hander essentially erased any concerns about the left groin strain that has set him back about two weeks.

Gohara will throw live batting practice on Monday, and then repeat this practice at least one more time before being cleared to make his first spring start. The big lefty still has plenty of time to be ready by April 11, which is when the Braves would first need to have five starters in their rotation.

Odds and ends

was happy with the way he threw his slider and changeup as he surrendered two hits over three scoreless innings during Saturday's win. Teheran's best weapon during his most effective stretches has been his slider, and he plans to throw the changeup more frequently this year

• Freddie Freeman recorded a pair of doubles within the first three innings against Mikolas. Freeman entered the day 1-for-9 and without an extra-base hit through his first four games of the year

notched a pair of singles on Saturday and has now recorded five hits through his first seven at-bats.

Up next

Mike Foltynewicz will make his second start when the Braves host the Marlins on Sunday afternoon. , and are expected to return to the lineup after getting a chance to rest on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.