Braves' pitchers thrilled after day one

BravesCenter's Bill Shanks talked with Tim Hudson, John Thomson, Kyle Davies, Lance Cormier, Jeff Bennett, and Brad Baker after the first day of the Braves' Early Throwing Program. Here is the transcript of those interviews.

TIM HUDSON

MEDIA: Can you talk about your decision to not play in the World Baseball Classic.
HUDSON: There were just more reasons for me not to play. We have a new pitching coach coming in, and it would be tough taking two or three weeks off away from our new coach when I'd like to get to know him and allow him to get to know me. The main reason was I want to be here for my team and for my teammates and to be strong going into the year. You've just got to be smart. You're heart wants to play. You want to get out there and represent your country and have the experience, but at the same time you've just got to be smart.

MEDIA: How was Roger?
HUDSON: I think he's great. I think he's awesome. His personality is going to blend in great with the team, with the young guys. Everybody knows him as a pretty easy-going, practical-joker type of guy when he was a player. I think it's good to have some guys like that on your staff to help lighten things up. Obviously, the credentials are there. He played a lot of years in the big leagues and he has a lot of knowledge. He's ready to get going, and it's going to be good to get to know him.

MEDIA: So you think he'll have a bit more fun with you pitchers?
HUDSON: I think it'll be a little more fun in the bullpen area when we're working out and throwing bullpens. I think he's a guy that is going to be able to loosen up with us and have some fun. You won't be so much walking on eggshells down there. Just trying to learn how to pitch, get better, and have fun while you're doing it. That's what it's all about.

MEDIA: Did he set an agenda with you guys in the meeting this morning?
HUDSON: Obviously guys get ready at a different pace than others. I don't think there's a strict schedule of how guys are going to throw here. It's pretty much however you're workouts have gone in the offseason will be what he expects from you here. Some guys are a little ahead of others, while some guys play in cold-weather climates where they can't pitch as much. This may be the first time some guys have gotten outside, and he understands that. He's a former big league pitcher, so he understands what it takes to get ready and what it takes to compete at that level. I think that's what we need.

MEDIA: What was your winter like as far as workouts?
HUDSON: Well you pretty much shut it down right after the season until the middle to end of December. You might play a little light catch. It's a long season, so you have to give your body time to heal and get over the little nagging things you dealt with the entire season. You just start cranking it back up. Right about now is when you start focusing on getting ready and game ready. Hopefully now the soreness is out and you're starting to build strength and get ready for the season.

MEDIA: Is there a lot of adrenaline on a day like today?
HUDSON: I think there's a lot of excitement. You see your old teammates for the first time. You haven't seen them all offseason. You just get a little bit of that baseball feel, that spring training fever. Guys wanting to get ready. You start seeing the commitment from the pitching staff to get better so we can win the World Series. That's what we're all here for. That's why we work all offseason, and that's why the guys do the little extra stuff during the winter and during the season so we can win the World Series. This is where it starts.


JOHN THOMSON

MEDIA: Can you talk about Roger?
THOMSON: He's probably seen all of us on video, but standing next to us and watching us is different. You see different things on video than when you watch someone live. So he'll probably just sit back and watch everyone's mechanics and not really say too much. When I got off the mound we talked about when I would throw and what days he thought were good, and basically we just said we'd wait until tomorrow.

MEDIA: Is it fair to compare him to Leo?
THOMSON: Not fair. I don't think so. This is his first big league job, right? As a coach? When I was in Texas with Orel Hershiser, he was by far one of the top right-handers in the game. But as a coach, they said his first year he struggled a little bit trying to get his points across to the players. But the second year, when I was there, he did a better job. It's different being a coach, but I think the difference is between Roger and Orel is that Orel went straight to the big leagues as a coach, whereas Roger has had a few years in the minor leagues. I think his philosophy will be a little different, but I'm not sure how much he's going to change, or if he'll change anything at all.

MEDIA: What did Roger say to you guys as a group?
THOMSON: Spring training starts February 17th, so do what you have to do to be ready for that day.

MEDIA: John are you going to be a little cautious coming back like this?
THOMSON: I'm probably on the same pace as I was last year at this time. Everybody has a different pace. I've done it enough years in a row to know how to get ready. Our first spring training game is March 1st against the University of Georgia, and I probably won't throw that day. I don't know what day I'll throw. All I do know is that April 4th is Opening Day, so that's basically when we have to be ready.

MEDIA: Is the finger injury from last season healed?
THOMSON: It's over.

MEDIA: How do you approach this year after a freak injury like that?
THOMSON: Just like I would any other year. Just get ready and go about what I need to do.

MEDIA: So it's not bothering you a bit?
THOMSON: It's not affecting me at all. When I came back last year, it was kind of in the back of my head, wondering if it was going to hurt again. But the last few starts I had and then after that last game in Houston, I felt like it was no big deal and I was ready to go.


KYLE DAVIES

MEDIA: How is Roger?
DAVIES: Great guy. I only talked to him a little bit. I think he's trying to feel us out and we're trying to feel him out. Really good feedback. There's not a whole lot you can tell after one side session.

MEDIA: What did he say to you?
DAVIES: Just that I looked good and that it's really not a time to make adjustments. Just getting to know the guy.

MEDIA: Is it good for the young guys to have someone like Roger?
DAVIES: I think it's just new. It's not like it's a better thing or a good thing, but I think it's just someone we can maybe relate to a little bit better, being a younger guy. Leo was great. We worked on some stuff, but I think Roger's going to be just as good.
MEDIA: How is this year different from last year coming in here as a major leaguer now?
DAVIES: A lot more relaxed. A whole lot more relaxed. You're not sitting there fidgeting when you're throwing. I thought I was going to airmail it last year. This year it was a little bit easier. I thought I was going to throw it over the stadium last year. It was my first year at Camp Leo last year.


LANCE CORMIER

SHANKS: How did it feel to get out there?
CORMIER: It felt good. It was just nice and easy, just to get a feel for it.

SHANKS: Was it weird to have to come in and meet everybody?
CORMIER: Yeah it is. I'm used to knowing everybody, but you come in and it's all new faces. You recognize some guys, but they don't really know you. But I'm kind of a quiet guy, so I just sit there and every once in a while offer up a handshake.

SHANKS: What did Roger say to you?
CORMIER: Oh we just talked about the program that I've been throwing on and how much I've been throwing. Just little things like that to see where I was.


JEFF BENNETT

SHANKS:So how did it feel to be out there?
BENNETT: It feels like I thought it was going to feel. It's incredible being in this stadium as a Brave. You know I've been in here as a Brewer, but it's just incredible putting on a Braves' hat today and seeing that logo on your shirt. I feel real good. It was my first time off the mound, and I felt great.

SHANKS: Have you thrown on the side this winter?
BENNETT: Yeah I don't have a mound at the house, so I improvise with a hill or something in the yard. I stand up on that and let my dad get down and catch me.

SHANKS: Are they going to hold you back at all?
BENNETT: I doubt it. I'm healthy. I feel great. Both with long-toss and throwing off the mound, I feel good. I'm looking forward to throwing the next couple of days.

SHANKS: Salty said your two-seamer was working pretty well.
BENNETT: Yeah the two-seamer is one of those things that usually comes along late. The four-seamer is definitely the first thing that comes, and then next is the slider, and the two-seamer is just the last thing that usually comes around.

SHANKS: How was Roger?
BENNETT: Real good. Everybody has been so nice. Bobby Cox and Roger have been extremely nice. I'm just looking forward to playing for them.


BRAD BAKER

SHANKS: How did it feel to be out there?
BAKER: It felt good. It was the first time off the mound. It felt good, and I kept the ball down. That's what you're looking for.

SHANKS: Now living up in Massachusetts, it must be hard to work out a lot in the winter.
BAKER: I've got some pretty good facilities, but I didn't pitch off a mound at all. I figured this would be a good enough trial to get five or six outings before spring starts and I should be on my way.

SHANKS: How does it feel to be here and be a Brave?
BAKER: The best part is being out in this weather, but it is nice walking into that clubhouse. It's a beautiful atmosphere, and I'm just happy to be here.

SHANKS: How was Roger?
BAKER: He said, "good job." It's nice. He's an easy guy to talk to, and I'm looking forward to this situation.


Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. You can email Bill at thebravesshow@email.com.


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