Atlanta Braves Blog

The Atlanta Braves blog by David O'Brien, baseball writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Ex-hatchet thrower Collmenter likes what he sees in Braves


MIAMI – The Braves haven’t lost since Josh Collmenter made his debut Saturday against the Nationals, when he pitched five solid innings and they began a five-game winning streak they take into his start Thursday in a series opener at Marlins Park.

So it’s understandable that Collmenter’s view of the team might be a bit skewed. Still, the 30-year-old, six-year veteran has been around enough to know good talent and clubhouse chemistry when he sees it.

And here’s what Collmenter told me Wednesday afternoon, before the Braves completed a three-game sweep of the Mets at Citi Field with a riveting 4-3 win that wasn’t secured until Ender Inciarte’s spectacular game-ending catch for the ages, which robbed Yoenis Cespedes of a would-be three-run walk-off homer.

“It’s been really good,” Collmenter said of his first week with the team. To which I asked, good as in the clubhouse vibe?

“Yeah, absolutely. That’s one of the things, you can be on a really good team and have a bad clubhouse and it just doesn’t feel right. Or you can be on a team (that has a bad record) with a good clubhouse, and it feels like you’re right in the thick of things. That’s very much how it’s been here.

“Obviously you can see that in the way the team’s playing. There’s no quit. You wouldn’t know where they’re at in the standings based on how they’re playing and how they’re attacking teams. It’s been fun to watch. The lineup’s fun, guys who can get on base and steal bags, and guys that can drive the ball out of the park. And then the bullpen’s been impressive. Just seeing all these young arms coming in with plus stuff, plus velocity. The stable’s definitely full.”

The Braves will have contractual control of Collmenter for one more season, and if they decide to bring him back in 2017 he said he’d be all for it.

“It’ll be interesting to see what happens this offseason, but yeah, it’d be a tremendous opportunity to stay here,” said the right-hander, who was Arizona’s Opening Day starter in 2015 and has a 37-33 career record and 3.54 ERA in 201 games including 76 starts over six seasons.

In the only two seasons in which he got more than 12 starts, he went 10-10 with a 3.38 ERA as a rookie in 2011 and  11-9 with a 3.46 ERA in 2014, when his 33 games including a career-high 28 starts and 179 1/3 innings.

Collmenter lost his rotation spot in 2015 and began this season on the DL with a sore shoulder, and after 15 relief appearances he as released by the Diamondbacks and finished the season with the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate, making four good starts to get stretched back out in case another team needed a starter. The Braves did.

In his debut Saturday, he limited the Nationals to four hits, two runs and three walks with eight strikeouts in five innings of a 7-3 win.

“With the things that (the Braves) have going,” Collmenter said, obviously with the way they’ve played two rival division teams (this past week) that are in the thick of the playoff race -- we’re equal if not better than them in that capacity, and I think most of the lineup stays here and a lot of the young guys are still under control. So there’s some good arms, and you put some good starting pitching together here and I think that’s really all they need.”

By the way, if you’ve wondered where Collmenter developed his distinctive straight-over-the-top pitching delivery – I sure did – then your ink-stained correspondent has an answer for you (actually, I merely followed up on a note that Kevin McAlpin noticed in a Collmenter bio somewhere).

Throwing hatchets and tomahawks at trees, it said. What in the … ?, I asked.

“I was from a small town in Michigan,” Collmenter explained, “and I always likened my throwing motion to, like, throwing a hatchet or an axe. My brothers and I did that when we were kids. Who knows if that led to it, but that’s the closest thing to it.

“Obviously when you see all the other guys throw, there’s some uniqueness to them, but when I first watched myself throw on video I realized how different it was from what everybody else was doing. It was very unique and has no doubt led to some of the success I’ve had, just with the deception in that delivery.”

What were you throwing? (hasn’t mentioned tomahawks to me)

“We’d throw, like, a hatchet, try to get it to stick in a tree. Or stuff like that. You’d make things up when you’re a little kid in that part of the country.”

Hey, as Jim Leyland once told me, if you throw strikes it doesn’t matter how you throw it. Or as the Jim put it so eloquently, “If you throw strikes, I don’t care if you shoot it out of your….” Well, you get the picture.

Anyway, Collmenter said he was told once to find a pitcher who throws like you do on TV and study him.

“The only guy who was somewhat similar was Chris Young, who pitches for the Royals now,” Collmenter said of the 6-foot-10, 37-year-old righty. “He’s a tall guy. He drops down (sometimes) but he’s still over the top, and the swings that he gets are reminiscent of swings that I get. Where guys aren’t comfortable and don’t see the ball that well. You actually can get away with throwing the ball up in the zone without having the velocity that some of these other guys have.”

Collmenter has avoided major injuries and thinks his delivery might be part of the reason.

“It keeps everything off of the elbow, so I really haven’t had to deal with elbow problems or anything,” he said. “For  the most part my shoulder has been healthy other than early this year. I think it’s easier to strengthen the shoulder and stretch it, you can’t really strengthen that (elbow) ligament too much, you just try to strengthen everything around it. Knock on wood, I haven’t had to deal with some of the issues that most people do.”

Here's one of the better Bob Dylan covers I've heard, by noted badass Mark Lanegan.

"MAN IN THE LONG BLACK COAT" written by Dylan, covered by Lanegan

Crickets are chirpin’, the water is high

There’s a soft cotton dress on the line hangin’ dry

Window wide open, African trees

Bent over backwards from a hurricane breeze

Not a word of goodbye, not even a note

She gone with the man

In the long black coat

Somebody seen him hanging around

At the old dance hall on the outskirts of town

He looked into her eyes when she stopped him to ask

If he wanted to dance, he had a face like a mask

Somebody said from the Bible he’d quote

There was dust on the man

In the long black coat

Preacher was a talkin’, there’s a sermon he gave

He said every man’s conscience is vile and depraved

You cannot depend on it to be your guide

When it’s you who must keep it satisfied

It ain’t easy to swallow, it sticks in the throat

She gave her heart to the man

In the long black coat

There are no mistakes in life some people say

It is true sometimes you can see it that way

But people don't live or die, people just float

She went with the man

In the long black coat

There’s smoke on the water, it’s been there since June

Tree trunks uprooted, 'neath the high crescent moon

Feel the pulse and vibration and the rumbling force

Somebody is out there beating a dead horse

She never said nothing, there was nothing she wrote

She gone with the man

In the long black coat




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About the Author

David O'Brien has covered the Atlanta Braves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2002.