Snitker: Pitcher Blair ‘getting better’


Right-hander Aaron Blair was touted as being close to major-league ready when the Braves acquired him in a December 2015 trade. He didn’t show that during a rough rookie season in 2016, but this spring offers Blair another chance to prove he belongs.

Blair’s results Tuesday at the Phillies weren’t great: three runs allowed over four innings with three strikeouts and a walk. But manager Brian Snitker said Blair, 24, has made strides since last season.

“He’s consciously worked on things, and I think it’s getting better,” Snitker said. “Velocity was a little tick up today. He’s just got to keep pitching, keep working and adjusting. The more experience he gets, the better he’s going to be. We are going to need him again when it boils right down to it.”

Blair most likely will begin the season at Triple-A Gwinnett. But if projected No. 5 starter Mike Foltynewicz falters during the season or an injury leaves a hole in the rotation, then Blair could be first in line for another call-up.

The rough moments for Blair against the Phillies included a hit batter and two triples. But Tyler Goeddel’s two-run triple in the second inning rolled to the wall when right fielder Emilio Bonifacio couldn’t cut it off. The other triple, by Brock Stassi in the third, was a high fly ball that got caught in the strong wind blowing to right and carried all the way to the wall.

Blair’s highlights included retiring the Phillies in order in the fourth inning. Consecutive strikeouts of Goeddel and Cesar Hernandez ended his outing after 67 pitches with 41 strikes.

In 15 starts for the Braves last season Blair posted a 7.59 ERA over 70 innings with 82 hits allowed, including 14 home runs. Blair said he’s made progress since altering his delivery near the end of last season and getting a “different perspective” from new pitching coach Chuck Hernandez.

“I’m a lot more comfortable on the mound,” Blair said. “The slider has become a good weapon for me today. The fastball command is still not quite there but it’s getting there. Every time I go out I feel more comfortable with my delivery and the way things are going.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Atlanta Braves

Ruiz could be among candidates for backup 1B, Snitker said
Ruiz could be among candidates for backup 1B, Snitker said

The Braves haven’t settled on a replacement for backup first-base duties since Matt Adams left as a non-tendered free agent, but several options will be considered, including third-base hopeful Rio Ruiz. This according to manager Brian Snitker, who said Ruiz would get some playing time at first base during spring training, after getting some...
Photos: The Braves at spring training
Photos: The Braves at spring training

The Braves continued workouts at spring training in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. on Saturday. The first full squad workout is Monday. Click through the photo gallery above to see images from the AJC’s Curtis Compton. See prospects Ronald Acuna, Max Fried and others. The Braves play their first spring game on Feb. 23 against the Mets. They open the...
So, who’ll hit fourth behind Freeman?
So, who’ll hit fourth behind Freeman?

Braves manager Brian Snitker isn’t sure who’ll bat fourth behind slugger Freddie Freeman this season, but ‘Snit’ sounds certain about not dropping Freeman one spot to hit in that position. All of the lineups Snitker has conjured so far have Freeman remaining in the third spot, the manager said Friday. “Freddie’s...
Blair nearly 40 pounds lighter, seeks to revitalize career
Blair nearly 40 pounds lighter, seeks to revitalize career

In the first days of Braves spring training, more than one clubhouse visitor wondered aloud who the guy was sitting at Aaron Blair’s locker. It was Blair, or about 85 percent of the guy who used to be him.  Blair has lost nearly 40 pounds since last spring, most of the weight shed during a conditioning program this winter when he worked...
Braves’ Swanson: ‘Last year is last year, it’s in the past’
Braves’ Swanson: ‘Last year is last year, it’s in the past’

It didn’t seem like much at the time, but perhaps a strained side muscle that forced Dansby Swanson to miss two weeks of 2017 spring training had residual effects during a season that went awry early for the Braves shortstop. Swanson never used it as an excuse or even mentioned that injury again until he was asked by a reporter Friday whether...
More Stories