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Weber uses underdog status as motivation

MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Ryan Weber's ranking among the Braves' top prospects depends on which source you ask, but the 25-year-old right-hander isn't bothered by any of that.

Instead, he feeds off the confidence he gained while making five starts as a September callup last season and the chip that has rested on his shoulder as he has quieted the doubters he's had since his high school days in Clearwater, Fla.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Ryan Weber's ranking among the Braves' top prospects depends on which source you ask, but the 25-year-old right-hander isn't bothered by any of that.

Instead, he feeds off the confidence he gained while making five starts as a September callup last season and the chip that has rested on his shoulder as he has quieted the doubters he's had since his high school days in Clearwater, Fla.

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"I've always been the smaller guy, and they've run me out there not expecting much," said Weber, who went 0-3 with a 4.76 ERA in last year's big league debut. "Then I go out and do what I do. I'm going to keep doing my thing until no one asks, and I'll always have that chip on my shoulder."

Though he does not possess the imposing physical attributes of Sean Newcomb, Aaron Blair or any of the Braves' other highly touted pitching prospects, the 6-foot, 180-pound Weber possesses a determined spirit that has helped him overcome the odds he has faced since he was drafted by the Braves in the 22nd round of the 2009 Draft.

"He doesn't light up the radar gun," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He's not throwing 95 or 96, but he gets people out and he can field his position. He commands his fastball and his secondary pitches. ... He got his feet wet last year, and he's a guy that can help us."

Weber has never made more than 16 starts during any of his seven seasons in the Minors, and he didn't even become a standing member of Triple-A Gwinnett's rotation until late August last year. But because Mike Foltynewicz and Manny Banuelos were sidelined by injuries in September, Weber received an unexpected call to Atlanta and proceeded to allow two earned runs or fewer in three of his five starts. He concluded this stretch on Oct. 1, when he notched 10 strikeouts over seven innings against the Nationals.

Video: WSH@ATL: Weber fans 10, holds Nats to one run

"It proved a lot to me that I'm not just another guy, and that I can go out there and I can give the Atlanta Braves a chance to win big league games with me starting," Weber said.

Weber relies heavily on a lively sinker that has improved since he made some mental and mechanical adjustments while working with Double-A Mississippi's pitching coach Dennis Lewallyn. He is a long shot to gain one of the two open spots in Atlanta's rotation, but he's using his underdog status as motivation.

"I know that there will be a couple rotation spots open, and that is my goal, whether it's the fourth or fifth spot," Weber said. "But I also know that I can pitch out of the bullpen in a long-relief role. So, I'm here to make the team, and I'm here to stay for the whole season."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com.

Atlanta Braves, Ryan Webb