If the Braves are to repeat their 2018 division title, they’ll likely require significant contributions from some talented young players. Gabriel Burns of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution examines the status of still-youthful lefty Luiz Gohara, who has shown immense ability but is now looking to reestablish himself after a difficult 2018 both on and off the field. Gohara is said not only to be in much-improved physical condition, carrying less weight and with a healthy shoulder, but also to possess a newfound focus on his craft.
Here’s more from the NL East:
- As part of an interesting look at what it’s like to sit and wait through a long stay on the open market, Britt Ghiroli of The Athletic drops a few nuggets regarding the Nationals and still-unsigned star free agent Bryce Harper. (Subscription link.) Word reached some in the organization recently that the club was “out of the running” to bring back Harper, per the report, though Ghiroli also cautions that there’s still nothing approaching certainty there. After all, Nats ownership and agent Scott Boras have a well-established knack for finding a way to line up on big contracts.
- Phillies righty Jerad Eickhoff is back on the bump in camp, making for a notable step in his comeback effort. As Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports, it was an emotional moment for the 28-year-old and others in he organization. Eickhoff still has quite a few tests ahead of him as he looks to put his finger troubles behind him. As Salisbury explains, there doesn’t seem to be a clear path right back into the Phillies rotation, but it’s also not hard to imagine Eickhoff forcing himself into the picture. There’s still some flexibility to work with as well, as Eickhoff could open the season on the DL and has an option year remaining.
- In other Phillies health news, second baseman Cesar Hernandez is coming back from a broken foot that he played through late last season, as Matt Breen of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. Hernandez, who struggled after suffering the injury, now says that “it affected me in every single way.” The team was aware of the injury and did what it could to limit the strain; it was determined that Hernandez could play without risking further injury. Still, it’s not hard to imagine how it limited the switch-hitter, who saw his OPS fall by over 100 points from the first half of the season to the second. He was also just five-of-nine in stolen base attempts down the stretch. It’d be a nice boon for the 2019 Phils if Hernandez can get back to reaching base at the .370+ clip he carried in the two and a half seasons before his injury.