Spring Training Report: Blue Jays, Braves and Phillies

Marcus Stroman - Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Checking in from Phillies camp in Clearwater, here are interviews with Braves, Phillies, and Jays players, plus an updated progress report on pitchers Kyle Drabek and Marcus Stroman from Jays pitching coach Pete Walker.

Joey Terdoslavich Embracing Every Opportunity

The Braves decision to give Joey Terdoslavich some catching experience wasn't based on much data.

The outfielder/infielder increases his versatility with this experiment, but he's never been behind the plate in his professional career.

"My senior year of high school I caught. So it's relatively new. But I appreciate the team having me add this so that I can better help them and help myself."

Terdoslavich played for Triple-A Gwinnett for most of 2013, before the Braves called him up. He made his major league debut on the fourth of July, and in 79 at-bats hit .215. He has a lot going on trying to make a good impression in camp, so adding catching would seem to only add more work. He's not complaining. Instead, he's capitalizing.

"There's no extra pressure. I'm focused on getting better and just letting everything work out. I'm just trying to be the best I can be and put myself in position to succeed."

Last season was an opportunity to learn, as much as it was to achieve the ultimate goal. Terdoslavich was very aware of the moment. He wasn't about to take the experience for granted.

"It was special. You work your whole life to get to the big leagues. Brian McCann was great to be around and learn from. I had things to learn from everyone."

He initially skipped Double-A, with the Braves starting him in Triple-A in 2012. As time went on, however, the organization realized Terdoslavich simply wasn't ready. He was re-assigned to Double-A Mississippi and went from hitting .180 in Triple-A to finishing the season hitting .318 with 58 RBI in 85 games with Gwinnett.

"I went to Double-A and I played hard and decided to do my job. And that helped me succeed. I got a fresh start and fixed a hitch in my swing. I knew I was a great baseball player, so I just kept working."

When he looks back now, he expresses a kind of grateful attitude, humbled and not at all regretful, Terdoslavich doesn't see that time as anything but necessary to improve.

"I needed to learn the game more. The demotion was good for me. I had never failed before and I learned how to. People say it was a lost year, but I don't look at it that way. You gotta forget the struggles."

Phillies prospect Cord Sandberg Reflects On Choosing Between Passions

Cord Sandberg passed up a four-year scholarship offer to play football for Mississippi State, but he had no reservations about moving forward into a baseball career.

"I have a passion for both so that wasn't a deciding factor. I felt based on the money I could put away, it was a pretty easy decision. Plus, there's better longevity. Physically it's less of a toll over the longterm. I'm going to give it all I got."

Once that was squared away, the Bradenton, Florida native had to face the reality every young player does upon entering pro ball: he experienced an adjustment period. He learned quickly that what he was able to do in the past was going to take extended effort.

"Getting drafted was this great opportunity, but now you're getting paid to play. It's the same game, but the level of competition is greater. In high school, you can hit .400 easier, but here you might be hitting .200 and you can't lose focus," he said.

The lefty-hitting outfielder played all of 2013 in the Gulf Coast League (Rookie), hitting .207 with 14 runs knocked in, 24 walks, and 23 runs scored.

Once he began to trust his ability and increased his production, he gained momentum. With every at-bat, his self-trust grew.

"It wasn't very difficult, just very different. I knew I wasn't going to just go up and hit 20 home runs and hit .400. Once I had some success it was like, 'Ok, you figured it out those two times, now do it again' It gives you confidence. And then you just have to be consistent."

His approach isn't to have a specific goal in mind once camp breaks. He's focused solely on what he's doing at the plate. The rest isn't up to him and he's not concerned about it.

"Wherever I wind up, I just want to have quality at-bats. You want results, but it's also just about hitting the ball hard, reduce strikeouts, and putting the ball in play more consistently."

Pete Walker Talks High Hopes For Drabek, Stroman

Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker gave his take on two important parts of the team's future: right-hander Kyle Drabek and top righty pitching prospect Marcus Stroman.

Drabek underwent Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career in 2012, after having the procedure in 2004. He'd made 13 starts in 2012 going 4-7 with a 4.67 ERA before his season ending injury in June.

Stroman, the number 3 ranked Jays prospect by MLB.com, was named an MiLB Organizational All-Star to cap off an oustanding 2013 season with the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. The righty went 9-5, striking out 129 batters in 111.2 innings for the Double-A affiliate. He has a minor league K/9 of 10.4 in the minor league and his chances of making the Jays rotation are getting stronger.

Drabek:

"He's come a long way. It's been a long road and he's just been working his tail off. He came into camp in great shape.

"He's put himself in the picture for a spot in the rotation."

"He wants it to be now. But he just needs to pitch. He's felt good after each outing. And we just need to see where we're at once Spring Training is over."

Stroman:

"I was made aware of his work ethic, his pitchability, and so far from what I've seen the reports are accurate."

"He's competing for a spot. He's got to get innings, build his innings up and face more hitters."

[ When asked if Stroman merely has an outside shot for a spot in the rotation] "I won't say that. He's one we're definitely looking at."

For Shane Watson Self-Assurance Is Still Key

Every young player faces day-to-day challenges. But for Phillies prospect Shane Watson, living with diabetes forced him to face one more.

One more than his healthier teammates who could go about their business without thoughts of sugar dropping. That one more thing created a period of emotional struggle for the pitcher.

"I used to get depressed and really discouraged. I didn't want to be weird or different," Watson said.

As time went on, he learned to reset his attitude. Even when he can't avoid being "different", he's no longer deeply affected by the difference.

"Sometimes I'm aware of it with my teammates like if I have to check my sugar. I can't just do what they're doing. But I can still play. None of that has changed. It could've been worse."

After debuting in the GCL in 2012 and getting five starts, he played the entirety of 2013 with the Class-A Lakewood Blue Claws. He made 16 starts, finishing 4-6 with a 4.75 ERA and struck out 53 over 72 innings of work. With each month, he lowered his ERA. Then the wheels fell off. Watson was shut down after a start in July revealed he'd need shoulder surgery.

There's more to overcome now.

"It was a big thing last year, a big workload," he said. "It was a rough season at first. But I knew what the Phillies wanted from me and I knew I could do it. I just tried to develop each start. Looking ahead to recovering, I just want to come back and pitch aggressively."

Despite this setback, there's no longer any perceived limits. Whatever shock or uncertainty he went through after his diagnosis is gone. Perhaps the experience is helping him keep a completely positive attitude.

"I came to realize I can reach my full potential."

Jays Deck McGuire Feeling Renewed After Fall League, Being Added To 40-Man

McGuire, the Jays 2010 first round pick (11th overall) has adjusted his approach over the past three seasons. His perspective shifted after reassessing what he could improve in 2013, and the Jays protected him from the Rule Five Draft.

After what he's gone through, struggling in parts of 2011 and 2012, that was an important signal from the big club. He went 9-10 in 2013, ending the campaign with a 4.86 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 157 innings pitched.

"I've felt great coming back. I went to Fall League and that helped build even more confidence. There's not been any one thing that's helped me, but I understand there's going to be the low moments and the bright spots. It was about getting better start to start."

The ups and downs for a prospect so highly regarded upon being drafted were difficult mentally, but McGuire turned his thinking around by simplifying.

"I needed to do the opposite of what I was doing before," he said.

Perhaps due to the struggles, he realized that he had nothing to hold back on the mound. There may have been some hesitancy, but that's behind him.

"I need to attack the same every year. I've learned it's ok to trust myself."

Phillies Notes and Quotes:

For shortstop Roman Quinn, this spring is partially focused on giving himself more chances with the bat. "Since coming out of the Draft I've made a lot of progress as a switch hitter. I'm working on making a little progress everyday." He's also focused on improving defensively. He made 27 errors last season with Lakewood. "I'm trying to limit my errors, which I could've made less of in the past. I need to be more consistent.".... Third baseman Cody Overbeck will be a free agent this year and knows that a big change could be coming. "[The Phillies] have seen me play a ton. They know what I'm capable of." Overbeck, 28, spent the past two seasons with Triple-A Lehigh Valley, hitting .255 with 19 home runs in 122 games for the Iron Pigs in 2013. That looming free agency question hangs over this spring training, and he's fully aware of it. "Yeah, I mean I kind of can't help it. I'm just going to play and see where it takes me."

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