Resop can rejoice
Braves reliever stands to make team after impressive spring
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When Chris Resop arrived at Spring Training, he still felt a little tentative about the fact that he was coming back from right elbow surgery. But six weeks later, the right-handed reliever finds himself with a high-velocity fastball and reason to feel confident that he'll be on the Braves' Opening Day roster.
"I definitely didn't expect my velocity to be where it's been," said Resop, who was claimed off waivers from the Angels in October. "It's higher now than it's ever been. I've always been a 93-95 [mph] guy, and for some reason this spring, I've been higher, a lot higher. I'll take it gladly."
While throwing a scoreless inning for the Braves in their Grapefruit League season finale at Disney's Champion Stadium on Thursday afternoon, Resop recorded an inning-ending strikeout of the Mets' Damion Easley with a 98-mph fastball. Earlier in the inning, one of his pitches registered at 101 mph.
"He's got more than just the fastball," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He's got other pitches. He's got a curveball and change. He's not just one-dimensional."
After watching the Braves' Grapefruit League season debut against the Dodgers on Feb.27, a National League scout was asked what had impressed him most about the pitchers he'd seen. Without much hesitation, he said, "Resop's arm."
Over the course of the past few weeks, similar comments have been made. More importantly, Resop has been able to use his recharged fastball to generate good results. With Thursday's scoreless inning, Resop ended the Grapefruit League season with a 2.25 ERA.
In other words, he's heading toward Opening Day much more confident than he was at this time last year, when he'd posted a 15.82 ERA in seven Cactus League appearances for the Angels. Part of his problem might have been injury-related. In July, he underwent a season-ending surgical procedure that removed bone chips from his elbow.
"I threw worse last year in Spring Training than I ever have in my whole life," Resop said. "So I kind of knew I needed to go down and work on some things. This year, at least, I can go in and feel pretty confident that I'm getting the job. Last year, I didn't by any means."
With John Smoltz expected to start the season on the disabled list, it looks like the Braves will be able to include Resop, Blaine Boyer and Royce Ring -- all relievers who have no Minor League options remaining -- in their bullpen at the beginning of the season.
When Smoltz is activated -- his expected date is April 6 -- the Braves will likely remove one reliever from their bullpen. But based on what he's shown during his first Spring Training with the team, Resop certainly could be around for most of the season.
The Marlins converted Resop from an outfielder into a pitcher midway through the 2003 season and then promoted him to the Majors before the '05 All-Star break. Now three years later, the right-handed reliever still has a high-powered arm and the confidence that he's now more of a pitcher than a thrower.
"I'm still learning," Resop said. "But I feel like I'm a lot smarter now than I was back then."
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.