Braves’ Harris II says Rookie of Year season was ‘decent’
NORTH PORT, Fla. (AP) — Bad news for the rest of the National League: The reigning Rookie of the Year doesn’t sound all that satisfied with his debut season.
Atlanta’s Michael Harris II, whose callup last year propelled the Braves to 101 wins and a division title, said Saturday he “had an all right season, I guess,” and then responded with more modesty when asked if that’s really how he feels about 2022.
“Some things I had to work on, but it was decent. I’ll try to do better,” Harris said. “Kind of like to hold myself to a higher standard.”
There’s no telling how good the 21-year-old center fielder can become. Harris hit .297 with 19 home runs, 64 RBIs and 20 stolen bases after jumping from Double-A to the majors. Atlanta was below .500 when Harris made his debut May 28. Shortly thereafter, the Braves went on a 14-game winning streak.
Harris and Atlanta teammate Spencer Strider finished 1-2 in the Rookie of the Year vote.
“It means a lot. I know you can only win it once,” Harris said. “I guess that made it mean so much more.”
Harris starts a $72 million, eight-year deal in 2023 that could be worth $102 million over 10 seasons. He’s from DeKalb, Georgia, and the contract means he could be playing in Atlanta for a while.
“Me being a fan of the Braves growing up, and being able to put on that jersey and play in Atlanta for a team I grew up rooting for, I guess it just gave me that extra push,” Harris said. “Having my family and friends here to support me too, that also helped.”
Chicago White Sox closer Liam Hendriks is serving as an inspiration for the rest of the team in spring training.
Hendriks went public with his battle with cancer in January, announcing he has non-Hodgkin lymphoma. But he has been working out at the team’s facility in Arizona, and pitching coach Ethan Katz said the three-time All-Star had a bullpen session on Friday.
“This guy’s unbelievable. He really is,” an emotional Katz said Saturday. “He’ll be back on the field as soon as he can.”
Right-hander Lucas Giolito said learning of Hendriks’ diagnosis was “pretty devastating,” but it has helped having him around at camp.
“It’s like a great thing to see. He’s a special guy off the field as well,” Giolito said. “So seeing him do his thing right now, we’re all looking forward to having him back.”
Former Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia made his first visit to the team’s spring training facility since he officially retired in 2021.
“The energy Pedroia still has is unreal,” manager Alex Cora said. “For him to be around and with the group, I think it’s more important to him and we want to make a conscious effort to have him around as much as possible. When guys like that come here, it’s a joy for everybody, especially him.”
Pedroia’s left knee was injured by a slide from Manny Machado in 2017. He spent the next three years having multiple operations before he announced his retirement.
“He led by example,” Cora said. “There’s a reason he’s limping around. He gave everything to this franchise.”
Pedroia said he came because Cora called him.
“He asked me,” Pedroia said. “Obviously I’ll do anything for Alex for what he meant to me and my career, the things that he taught me. He asks and I’m there. But as far as a major role with the organization, I’m not there yet. My kids are young and I’m helping them out.”
Does he miss playing?
“I miss it,” Pedroia said. “But I’ve kind of fallen in line with my new life. … Obviously, I miss playing and being around the guys, but I didn’t miss the grind. The last few years of my career was tough.”
Philadelphia manager Rob Thomson sees similarities between former New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and Phillies owner John Middleton.
“He really is,” Thomson said. “He’s very competitive, and he wants to win. He wants to have the best organization in the history of the game, and I respect that.”
Thomson spent 20 of his almost 30 years in the Yankees’ organization in roles from player development to big league coach under Steinbrenner, who died in 2010.
“I couldn’t put into words, but it’s helped,” Thomson said on how working for Steinbrenner aided him as a manager. “I can’t tell you how much because it’s just attention to detail, and the willingness to win and whatever it takes to win. The competition level that he had is unheard of, and I just loved being around him, really did.”
Middleton worked the ball bag during batting practice when there was a lack of people shagging balls, something that a smiling Thomson said he never saw Steinbrenner do.
Thomson got his first major league managerial chance on an interim basis when Joe Girardi was fired on June 3 of last year. Philadelphia went 65-46 under Thomson en route to winning the National League pennant.
Thomson had the interim tag removed and received a two-year contract during last year’s postseason.
The Cincinnati Reds and right-hander Hunter Strickland agreed to terms on a minor league contract with an invitation to major league camp.
Strickland went 3-3 with a 4.91 ERA and seven saves in 66 relief appearances for the Reds last year. The previous season, he pitched for the Rays, Angels and Brewers.
The 34-year-old Strickland has also pitched for the Mets, Mariners and Nationals since spending the first five seasons of his career with the Giants.
Boston right-hander Brayan Bello has been shut down until Monday due to right forearm soreness.
“After his last bullpen, he felt soreness,” manager Alex Cora said. “He’s so important to the organization and what we’re trying to accomplish. He’ll be back on his throwing program Monday.”
The 23-year-old Bello is a candidate to make the club’s starting rotation this spring.
“It was last week, I was throwing. I didn’t feel any pain. I felt tight and I didn’t want to force it,” he said through a translator Saturday morning. “I feel much better right now. I’ve been working really hard to get ready.”
Last year, he was promoted from Triple-A and pitched in 13 games for Boston, making 11 starts and going 2-8 with a 4.71 ERA.
“I feel very anxious. I want Monday to come,” Bello said. “It’s the first time I’ve experienced something like this.”
In December, Bello worked out at the home of Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez in the Dominican Republic.
Colorado right-hander Germán Márquez will not compete for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic because of a minor hamstring injury. He’s expected to be ready by opening day.
Márquez is entering his eighth season with the Rockies. He went 9-13 with a 4.95 ERA in 31 starts last year.
Follow Noah Trister at www.twitter.com/noahtrister
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
AP Baseball Writer Jay Cohen in Glendale, Arizona, contributed to this report.
Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.