SHANKS: I know you were in the big leagues last year, but this has got to be a different feeling. Is it?
THORMAN: Well I've never been in Atlanta in March. I've never really been in spring training for more than three weeks in big league camp; that in itself was kind of nice. I'm just trying to take it all in and appreciate it one day at a time. I'm really excited for Opening Day. I can't wait to get to Philly and get it going.
SHANKS: With your new baby arriving this month and becoming a starting major league player, it's been somewhat crazy for you, hasn't it?
THORMAN: Yeah it's been kind of a whirlwind spring so far. But as far as starting goes I'm here to play baseball and help the team win. I'm trying not to treat it different from any other season, as far as getting ready for the season, starting the season healthy, and getting off to a good start.
SHANKS: Is that the best attitude to take to not worry about pressing or replacing anybody or anything like that?
THORMAN: Well I don't know I've never done it before, so we'll find out.
SHANKS: Does it make you more comfortable though to make you feel that it's just another season just like you prepared to go to Richmond last year and Mississippi the year before that?
THORMAN: Right. There's obviously more at stake, but at the same time it's baseball. I feel very comfortable in the clubhouse. We've got such a great nucleus of guys, veteran leadership and young players. I've played with a lot of these guys in the minor leagues in the past. The experience I had up here last year, I got so much out of that just from being around the players at the big league level and seeing the pace of the big league games. So I think all of that factors into me being a little more relaxed than I might have been just walking into this job.
SHANKS: So if you had just been brought up, say in September when the rosters expanded instead of in midseason this might have been more overwhelming to you?
THORMAN: Yeah that's the thing. I was here for, I think, 90 days. It's a very good feeling to be back in Atlanta and be back in the clubhouse. I feel comfortable here. That's one of the biggest things for me; when you feel comfortable you relax and you play your game, and that's what it's all about.
SHANKS: You and Kelly – two kids from the 2000 draft – out there together. So many people are looking at you two since you are taking over for a couple of veteran players. How do you feel he's doing?
THORMAN: From what I've seen I think he's ready to go. Everyday he looks better and better defensively. That's the only question mark is his defense. We all know he can hit. He's walked a ton this spring, so I think he's going to do a great job as the leadoff hitter. The defense comes along everyday. The more ground balls he takes, the better he's going to get. It's all about getting your repetitions in and getting experience. He's going to go out there and do a great job.
SHANKS: I know the only time you might think about pressure is when schmuck reporters like me ask about it, but have you felt the pressure this spring a bit?
THORMAN: I start slow every year, so that's not really new for me. I come down and try to hit five home runs in three at bats. That doesn't work and I don't know why I keep doing it. But that's what spring training is for, to get that stuff out of the way and to get comfortable in the box. I think I'm there right now. I feel good. I can't wait for the season to start.
SHANKS: When the LaRoche trade was made, they said they were going to give you a chance to play everyday. I know Craig Wilson is here and there's no doubt he's a hitter. But how important will it be for you to get off to a good start to have that chance to play everyday?
THORMAN: I think it'll be huge. I've talked to Adam about this many times. He started hitting really well when he started playing everyday in the second half. I don't think it's a coincidence. I think lefties keep you on the ball a little longer and you really have to bare down. It's something I've always done in the past. For me, it's not a lefty-righty thing. It's baseball. Everyday is a challenge. Everyday is a new adjustment. For the last six years I've played everyday in the minor leagues. It didn't matter who is pitching, who was starting, or who was coming out of the pen, I was in there. So you learn, and you adapt, and you adjust. That's what it's all about. As far as my playing time and my role, that's not for me to decide. I think Bobby's going to do whatever's best for the team. It's about winning ballgames.
SHANKS: So it hasn't really sunk in or you aren't really dwelling on the fact that you are the starting first baseman for the Atlanta Braves?
THORMAN: I'm a baseball player. I play baseball and come to the field everyday. If I'm in the lineup, it's great.
SHANKS: You haven't changed, have you?
SHANKS: Okay, give me your thoughts about the team. How good is this team?
THORMAN: I think we look tremendous. I think if you ask anybody in the clubhouse they'll tell you the same thing. There's a great buzz and a great feeling in the clubhouse. Not a lot of people are talking about us, and that's the way we like it. Talk about the Phillies and talk about the Mets. You look at our bullpen, and you look at our starters, and you like at our lineup, and we're going to come out there and play some good baseball. I think everybody in the clubhouse is excited about this season. That's the way it should be.
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. He can be heard on 680 the Fan in Atlanta, 105.5 the Fan in Macon, and the Atlanta Braves Radio Network. Email Bill at email@example.com.
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