LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLA. – Banged-up closer Jason Grilli dutifully reported with the rest of the Braves pitchers and catchers Friday, showing off the new scar up his left heel and bearing all the requisite optimism of spring.
He is 39 years old and coming off Achilles’ tendon surgery – and convinced he’ll be ready to resume the closing role from Day 1 of the season.
“I have no other expectation (than to be in bullpen on opening day),” Grilli said. “I’m going to go out and pitch and if (the Braves) see something different, that’s their prerogative.”
The prospect of the Braves being able to rely upon Grilli once more to nail down the game’s last three outs is one of dozens of intrigues accompanying them to this spring training. See Sunday’s AJC and myajc.com for more on Grilli’s comeback.
Last season the veteran converted 24 of his 26 save opportunities – posting a 2.67 ERA – before rupturing his Achilles while running to cover first base July 11.
In advance of reporting to camp, Grilli said he has thrown four bullpen sessions and reported no ill-effects from the injury. On Friday, he did some light stretching and some long toss in the outfield. The first scheduled workout for Braves pitchers and catchers is Saturday.
“It’s not like I’m scared to pitch, throw a pitch, do something athletically required,” he said.
Grilli said he was uncertain about his spring regimen or whether his workouts would be limited in the early going. It will simply be a matter of trusting his experience, he said.
“I’ve done this (spring training) more than enough,” he said. “I’m going to listen to my body just as I’m going to tell any young kid – listen to your body.”
And what is his body telling him here at the dawn of spring training?
“It’s ready to go – I’ve put it through the test of time,” Grilli said.