LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Matt Marksberry still marvels at how significantly his life changed on July 30. His plan to enjoy a casual off-day lunch was cancelled by the totally unexpected call he received from Triple-A Gwinnett manager Brian Snitker, whose message initially led the Braves' left-handed reliever to
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Matt Marksberry still marvels at how significantly his life changed on July 30. His plan to enjoy a casual off-day lunch was cancelled by the totally unexpected call he received from Triple-A Gwinnett manager Brian Snitker, whose message initially led the Braves' left-handed reliever to wonder if he had been acquired by another organization.
"I knew it was the Trade Deadline, so I'm thinking that I got traded," Marksberry said. "Then [Snitker] said, 'You're going to meet up with the team in Philadelphia.' I'm sitting there wondering what Triple-A teams are in Philadelphia. Then he said, 'No, if this trade goes through, you're going to get called up.' I was in shock. I didn't know what to feel at the time, because I didn't know if they were joking or something."
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Marksberry, who pitched a scoreless inning and struck out two in Tuesday's 5-4 win over the Mets, had little reason to anticipate that he would get his first call to the Majors courtesy of the domino effect that was created by the completion of that day's trade. It brought Hector Olivera to the Braves in exchange for five players, including two of Atlanta's top two relievers -- Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan.
Having already dipped far below their comfort level in regards to bullpen depth, the Braves opted to fill one of their two bullpen vacancies with Marksberry, despite the fact that he had started the season with Class A Advanced Carolina and had compiled just 11 appearances after skipping the Double-A level with a direct promotion to Gwinnett.
"It was almost like I didn't believe it at the time, because I started the year [at the Class A Advanced level]," Marksberry said. "It was pretty surreal. It really didn't sink in until the offseason, because during the season, you're just trying to play. But during the offseason, you're like, 'Wow, this is childhood-dream stuff.'"
Having had the offseason to fully appreciate the 31 appearances he made for the Braves during last season's final two months, the 25-year-old southpaw now finds himself standing with Ian Krol, Alex Torres and Hunter Cervenka as the top left-handed relief candidates in Braves camp.
Though Marksberry gained valuable experience at the Major League level last year, there is a chance the Braves will allow him to extend his development by beginning the season at Triple-A Gwinnett.
Marksberry allowed just one earned run over his final 12 appearances last year, but he produced a 5.01 ERA over the 23 1/3 innings with Atlanta. He spent this past winter focusing on the development of his changeup, with the hope that it will allow him to become a more versatile option. He limited left-handed hitters to a .170 batting average and a .267 on-base percentage, but right-handers batted .361 with a .479 OBP against him.
"I don't want to be known as a left-handed specialist," Marksberry said. "I want to complete myself, because it's easier to get a job as a complete left-handed pitcher."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.