LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Luiz Gohara watched his father take his last breath and then spent the remainder of last year's offseason aiding his grieving mother as she developed a heart ailment. The grief and responsibility debilitated the 21-year-old pitcher ahead of what became a lost season.
Having seen what Gohara had done upon his introduction to the big leagues the previous September, Freddie Freeman told Alex Anthopoulos the big left-hander might immediately become an All-Star. Instead, it became a year of awakening for the young hurler, who remains fueled by last year's disappointments.:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::
"I really apologize to those guys who said I was going to be an All-Star and those who were thinking positive things about me," Gohara said. "It didn't happen last year, but I can work to make it happen this year."
Told he didn't necessarily need to apologize for the effects of events outside of his control, the rejuvenated hurler added, "It's more about the respect and great positive energy they were giving me. It stunk to be pitching poorly, but all of those injuries didn't help me."
Approximately two months after his father had died in his arms outside a hospital in his native Brazil, Gohara reported to last year's Spring Training weighing approximately 320 pounds. Thanks to an improved diet, the decision to stop drinking alcohol and a commitment to conditioning, the 22-year-old hurler has returned this year at what he approximates to be 40 pounds lighter.
"He's worked hard," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He spent a lot of time [at the Braves' Spring Training complex] in the offseason, and he dedicated himself to turn some things around. It will be good to see, because we all know what he's capable of when he's right."
As Gohara aims to be an asset in Atlanta's rotation or bullpen this season, the Braves are hoping to see more of what displayed when he completed at least six innings in four of the five starts made in September of 2017. His four-seam fastball averaged 96.8 mph, which was the sixth-highest average mark produced by a left-hander who threw at least 400 pitches that season.
Gohara's bid to build upon that strong first impression began to fade when he tweaked his groin and sprained his ankle within the first three weeks of last year's Spring Training. His four-seamer averaged 94.0 mph as he totaled just nine big league appearances (one start). When he developed shoulder discomfort in August and was sent to the Braves' Spring Training complex, he realized the need to alter his lifestyle.
"I knew I had to start working, because at some point, it might be too late," Gohara said. "I had to take advantage of the opportunity they've given me to show them I can play 10, 12 or 13 years in the big leagues."
Concerns about Gohara's alcohol consumption preceded the Braves acquiring him from the Mariners before the 2017 season. The rejuvenated hurler says he hasn't had a drink since August. He's also curbed the temptation for late-night meals and chosen to occasionally run twice a day.
Gohara's motivation is fueled by the reality he has the chance to provide both emotionally and financially for his mother Maria, who has made steady improvement since recovering from the medically-induced coma she entered after undergoing a heart procedure in May.
A December trip to his native Brazil allowed Gohara to spend time with his mother and provide her a chance to see he is determined to stay on what now appears to be a good path.
"She's really happy about the job I've been doing and how I'm taking things more seriously," Gohara said. "I think that has really helped her with her health."