Braves’ Olivera Reaps Benefits Of Winter Work

SEE ALSO: 2014 Trades Kicked Off Rebuild

SEE ALSO: Braves Look To Past For Way Forward

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.—The Braves got their man last July after initially losing him to the Dodgers. Now, they’re trying to find out what they have in 31-year-old Hector Olivera.

After defecting from Cuba in September 2014, Olivera signed a six-year, $62.5 million deal with Los Angeles last May. Atlanta also showed strong interest.

Olivera battled hamstring injuries, however, and appeared in just 13 games in the full-season minors before the Dodgers traded him to the Braves. He made his big league debut in September.

Primarily a second baseman in Cuba, Olivera saw most of his activity last year at third base before the Braves shifted him to left field last winter. He worked with outfield instructor Bo Porter while playing in the Puerto Rican League.

“The transition to left field has been great,” big league manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “I feel comfortable that whatever he gets to, he’s going to catch. There are a lot of left fielders in this league who are a lot worse than he is.”

Additionally, Olivera spent three weeks this winter with hitting coach Kevin Seitzer on leveling and shortening his swing. The Braves also played him more often than anyone during spring training to give him as much experience as possible.

Once again, the results were promising. Through 20 games, Olivera went 24-for-58 (.414) with six doubles, 12 RBIs and just six strikeouts. His only home run, which he hit on March 25, was erased when the game ended after four innings due to rain.

“He has put the ball in play, but right now I can’t tell you if he’s going to be a 20-home run guy or a 10-home run guy,” Gonzalez said. “I do think he’s going to be able to drive in some runs. He’s got gap power that I’ve seen. His swing is a little bit shorter.”

Olivera admits to being more comfortable as he enters his second big league season. The past 18 months have been a whirlwind.

“I’m gaining a lot of confidence,” Olivera said through an translator. “Playing almost every game in spring training has helped me gain some confidence that I can carry over to the big leagues.”


• Even though the Braves sent down shortstops Dansby Swanson and Ozzie Albies midway through big league camp, Gonzalez was impressed with the makeup, character and ability of both infielders.

• The Braves returned Rule 5 reliever Evan Rutckyj to the Yankees after the lefthander threw three innings in camp.

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