LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Though Hector Olivera might not have lived up to expectations from a performance standpoint after he made his Major League debut in September, the Braves have certainly been impressed with the diligence and work ethic that he has shown over the past few weeks.Braves position
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Though Hector Olivera might not have lived up to expectations from a performance standpoint after he made his Major League debut in September, the Braves have certainly been impressed with the diligence and work ethic that he has shown over the past few weeks.
Braves position players are not required to report to Spring Training until Wednesday, but Olivera has already been in camp for nearly a week. The 30-year-old Cuban product has made good use of the opportunity to refine his swing and gain further comfort with his transition from third base to left field.
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"We think this guy is going to be a very productive player in the Major Leagues," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But at the very least, what I see is he cares and he works."
Standing as one of the top available international free agents around this time last year, Olivera signed a six-year, $62.5 million deal with the Dodgers. His first year in the United States was plagued by a hamstring injury that sidelined him most of the summer and the additional transition he had to make when the Braves acquired him at the expense of Jose Peraza and Alex Wood just before the non-waiver Trade Deadline.
Because the Dodgers were responsible to pay the entire $28 million signing bonus that was included in the deal, the Braves will pay Olivera an average of $6 million over the next five seasons. Still, the possibility that this could prove to be a bargain was questioned as Olivera batted .253 and compiled a .715 OPS over the 24 games he played for Atlanta.
As Olivera spent most of November playing in the Puerto Rican Winter League, he was joined by Braves hitting coach Kevin Seitzer and third-base coach Bo Porter. Seitzer's task was to refine the noticeable mechanical flaws in Olivera's swing. Porter was present to help with the transition from infielder to outfielder.
Olivera's progress will be better evaluated once he has a chance to face live pitching in games. But Gonzalez is among those who have said that the outfielder's swing certainly looks "cleaner" than it did last year.
"He's never said no to any of our coaches, whether that's hitting for two hours in the morning or taking fly balls," Gonzalez said. "He's never shied away from that."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.