Matt Belisle Interview

BravesCenter's Bill Shanks talked with former Braves' prospect Matt Belisle about his role in Cincinnati and about his former teammates now making their mark in Atlanta.

SHANKS: First off, what's it like being back here at Turner Field in a different uniform?
BELISLE: It's great. It's kinda sweet and sour here also. I made it here with the Reds, and I don't look back on anything. But there were so many times when I looked at this field knowing what I wanted to do with the Braves. It's such an awesome complex, and I'm seeing a lot of familiar faces. So I'm having a blast already.

SHANKS: Have you circled this weekend on your schedule a little bit?
BELISLE: You know I knew we had one trip in here. I knew it was late (in the season). To tell you the truth, when I saw the guys at our place last time is when I really looked at it and said, 'ok when am I going to see them?' Sure enough, here it is.

SHANKS: So I really haven't talked to you since the trade. What was it like being traded from the Braves?
BELISLE: It was surprising. But everything settled in very nicely. I got a good opportunity over here. This year unravelled into some new circumstances with me being out in the bullpen. But it's been a valuable experience this year, and we'll see where it takes me.

SHANKS: But you had no idea you would be traded, did you?
BELISLE: No clue - at all. When I got the word from Dayton Moore I don't think it set in until a couple of days later. Before I knew it I went from the traditional Braves uniform that I had worn my whole career to white and purple pinstripes in AAA. Just like that. I didn't really hit until that offseason that I'd be going to a new spring training and what not.

SHANKS: We had talked two weeks before the trade and we were looking forward to you probably making your debut with the Braves - and then - boom - you're gone.
BELISLE: Yeah. That's what I mean. It was a little surreal for a while. I knew I wanted to come do it with the Braves. When something like that happens and there is no buzz and no press, it hits you pretty heavily. But it's what happened, and you don't look back.

SHANKS: You and Jung Bong and Bubba Nelson and Adam Wainwright...there's been a ton of you traded in the last few years.
BELISLE: Yeah and I think they just got rid of (Zach) Miner. It's a testiment to the fact that these guys are so stacked anyway. Look at what they're fielding now out there, which is so great to see since that's all the guys I was around. The interesting part about it is Kent Mercker, the guy I was traded for, is now on our club. It's hilarious. He's a big Braves guy - a big Bobby Cox fan.

SHANKS: So you've been healthy this year. That's what you've been waiting for.
BELISLE: Right. Everything feels real good. It's been the best year so far with my back. I concentrated a lot of flexibility.

SHANKS: Have you just gotten stronger every year with your back?
BELISLE: Yeah definitely. I've just gotten back to my old way of throwing a little bit more, and I think I'm finally (fully) healthy. So I feel strong.

SHANKS: What's the transition been like to the bullpen for you? Has it been weird?
BELISLE: At first it was because I had no idea what to expect since there are so many new situations that can arise throughout a game. They didn't know how they wanted to use me. But I love the fact that you can put your cleats on everyday and may get a chance to get into the game. Right off the bat I loved that part. I knew it would be a learning experience on how much to throw and how much not to throw, what it's going to take to get me ready in certain situations, and I just sort of learned a lot. We've got Mercker and (David) Weathers and (Tom) Hume who have all done it out of the bullpen. They are outstanding veterans that I've learned a lot from.

SHANKS: Do you still want to start?
BELISLE: You know, I don't know. They still don't know what they want to do with me. They're going to look at that option for next year. I've enjoyed this so much, and have learned how important of a role it is - to have a solid bullpen and I've had some success. But at the same time, I came to spring training wanting to crack that rotation. I love being the workhorse who goes out there every fifth day and being reliable. I miss taking control of the game like that. So we'll see.

SHANKS: Well early in the season when you started a few games it just looked natural for you.
BELISLE: Yeah. Right. If I go back to it, it'll be great. I feel confident in both avenues right now. Honestly, right now, I really don't know which one I'd rather do up here. The main thing is to stay here. But I feel completely confident that I can go out and be a good starter again.

SHANKS: So who all (with the Braves) have you talked with today?
BELISLE: Just Rochy (Adam LaRoche) and (Ryan) Langerhans. I saw (Blaine) Boyer and Kelly (Johnson), and I messed around with Petie (Orr) during BP.

SHANKS: What's it like to see those guys do what they're doing?
BELISLE: It's outstanding. It's so good knowing the guys that you played with, that you thought were gamers and knew what they were doing, and knew they really wanted it - really are. It's part of Bobby's genius - of how he filters them through and how he uses them. And some of the individuals - and it's all great to see them - but a guy like Pete Orr. I'm probably happier that he's in the big leagues than that I'm in the big leagues. He's somebody that deserves it so much. He's worked for it so much, which we all have. It's wonderful to see. It's great to know that I played with all of them.


Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, which is available on amazon.com. Bill can be reached at thebravesshow@email.com.

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