2/21/2014 5:41 P.M. ET
Carpenter looking to build on solid '13
By Joe Morgan / Special to MLB.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- David Carpenter was the last member of the Braves to take the mound in 2013. In Game 4 of Atlanta's National League Division Series loss to Los Angeles on Oct. 7, Juan Uribe hit a two-run homer off him to send the Dodgers one step closer to the World Series.
The homer marked an unfortunate end to a stellar season by a pitcher who took advantage of his first regular role in a Major League bullpen.
In 56 appearances, Carpenter compiled career-best marks with a 1.78 ERA, a 0.99 WHIP and four wins. Opposing batters hit just .198 against him.
Not bad for the former catcher, a native of Morgantown, W.Va., who was drafted by the Cardinals out of West Virginia University as a backstop in the 12th round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft.
In 2008, after several seasons of struggles at the plate, Carpenter began pitching, and he switched to the mound full-time in 2009. In 306 career appearances in the Minor Leagues, he compiled a 3.06 ERA.
"Everybody kind of forgets I haven't been doing this very long," Carpenter said. "I'm still trying to adapt to it. And it's a learning experience every time out."
Carpenter spent the offseason working to not only repeat his success in 2014 but to get better. He focused on maintaining his fastball command as well as sharpening his slider and working on his splitter.
"I'm just trying to find a way to make things a little bit better," he said.
Carpenter struggled in his first couple of seasons as a pitcher in the Majors, posting a 1-5 record and 5.70 ERA in 67 appearances with the Astros and Blue Jays between 2011 and 2012 before being traded to the Red Sox.
In November 2012, 10 days after Boston designated him for assignment, Atlanta claimed him off waivers. After going back and forth between Triple-A Gwinnett and Atlanta last April, he was recalled for good on April 30.
What followed was a career year. Carpenter credits former Braves starter Tim Hudson and pitching coach Roger McDowell, among others, for helping him reach the heights he attained at the back of the bullpen.
"Last Spring Training I was still trying to find a comfort level with [pitching]," he said. "I found it throughout the season. ... I believe everything's coming along at the right pace now, and I'm excited about it."
Walden could get a shot against lefty hitters
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Left-hander Jonny Venters remains on the comeback trail from Tommy John surgery, leaving Luis Avilan as the lone lefty guaranteed a spot in the bullpen come Opening Day.
Until Venters returns, however, manager Fredi Gonzalez is willing to use right-hander Jordan Walden in relief against left-handed hitters.
"Having Walden get left-handers out almost better than he does right-handers, that's almost like your second lefty," Gonzalez said. "We did that a little bit last year."
Walden held left-handed hitters to a .190 batting average in 91 plate appearances in 2013, his first season with the Braves. Right-handers batted .247 against Walden, who recorded a 3.47 ERA in 50 appearances.
Gonzalez also mentioned southpaw Ryan Buchter as a possible fit.
Buchter, 27, has bounced around the Minor Leagues for eight seasons with the Atlanta and Washington organizations. He finished 4-0 with a 2.76 ERA in 51 appearances for Triple-A Gwinnett last season, lowering his career ERA to 3.47 in 366 innings.
Non-roster invitee Atahualpa Severino is another name Gonzalez brought up as a possibility to fill the role. Severino, 29, pitched briefly for the Nationals in 2011, recording a victory and a 3.86 ERA in six appearances.
"[Severino] supposedly throws the ball really well," Gonzalez said.
Meanwhile, Venters continues to improve, and he played catch with infielder Ramiro Pena during Friday's full-squad workout.
"Talking to [head athletic trainer Jeff Porter], he was really, really pleased with how [Venters is] coming along," Gonzalez said.
With Venters dealing with injury since 2012, Avilan has emerged as a formidable left-hander out of the bullpen. Avilan, 24, has compiled a 6-0 record and a 1.69 ERA in 106 appearances for the Braves since 2012.
Left-handed batters have hit only .156 against Avilan during his two-year career.
Fredi says J-Hey running a sight to behold
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Manager Fredi Gonzalez saw one of his favorite sights in baseball on Friday morning -- outfielder Jason Heyward running the bases.
"He wasn't even going full speed," Gonzalez said. "He's my favorite player I've ever seen run the bases. I love watching him run [out] triples or go from first to third."
On Friday the Braves hit the ground running, as Gonzalez began the full-squad workout with a baserunning exercise.
"It's part of the conditioning that we've tried to implement," he said. "We implemented last year, and it worked well. It also helps them run the bases and [with] the conditioning at the same time. We'll do this every couple of days."
Heyward, who stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 245 pounds, wowed his manager of three seasons with the kind of athleticism that made him so valuable as the leadoff hitter late last season.
"Beautiful, graceful, the way he runs the bases," Gonzalez said. "He cuts it."
Braves taking their time with Pastornicky
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Manager Fredi Gonzalez believes that infielder Tyler Pastornicky will miss a week or more of Grapefruit League games while he rehabs for his surgically repaired right knee.
"We've got to take our time and make sure that thing is good," Gonzalez said. "He feels great when running forward."
Should Pastornicky's rehab continue into the regular season, Ramiro Pena will fill the role of utility fielder. Pena has played third base, shortstop, second base and outfield during his career. Pastornicky has played shortstop, second base and outfield since making his MLB debut in 2012.
Pastornicky tore an ACL in his left knee on Aug. 14 when he collided with Jason Heyward in right field while playing second base and underwent surgery on Aug. 19.
Pena sustained his own season-ending injury on June 9, when he landed on his right shoulder while making two diving catches against the Dodgers. He underwent surgery on June 27.
Joe Morgan is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.