Now Walden hopes he’s injury-free and he finds a role in an already deep Braves bullpen.
“So far, so good,” Walden said Tuesday. “I’ve only been here one day. It’s a lot different than the Angels, but just the fact that the Braves traded a good pitcher to get me means a lot to me.”
Walden made 45 appearances for the Los Angeles Angels last year in a season interrupted by biceps and shoulder injuries. He went 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA and one save, losing his closer job to Ernesto Frieri.
The right-hander was an All-Star closer in 2011, but the Braves have Craig Kimbrel in that role. Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty are Atlanta’s setup men.
“I know my job is to set up Kimbrel,” Walden said. “I don’t know where I fit in here yet, but my job is to just be a part of this team for now. There’s no reason to worry about closing when we have Craig.”
Hanson, 13-10 with a career-worst 4.48 ERA last year and 45-32 in four seasons, was expected to develop into another ace in a long run of top Braves starters. But with the rise of Kris Medlen and several other starters showing promise, Atlanta had options.
Despite a bullpen with the fifth-best ERA in the majors last year at 3.42, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he never could have enough relief help.
“It’s a great situation to have him,” Gonzalez said after the first workout for pitchers and catchers. “We can use him in all kinds of situations. From the seventh to the ninth innings, we have more choices to get things ready for Kimbrel. We can mix and match with another righty and he helps us get the best out of our bullpen.”
O’Flaherty and Venters are left-handers, and Kimbrel and Walden are right-handers, so Gonzalez said that gives him the kind of flexibility he wants in the late innings.
“He looked great,” Gonzalez said. “I had never seen him before, but he’s going to be a big help to us, especially when it comes to lefty-lefty, righty-righty matchups.”
NOTES: Several Braves position players reported early on Tuesday, including brothers B.J. and Justin Upton. B.J. Upton, signed as a free agent from Tampa Bay, said it was no big deal. “I’ve been playing with him as long as I can remember,” he said. “No big deal at all.” The Uptons have adjoining lockers in the Braves clubhouse. … Dan Uggla has taken the locker that was used by Chipper Jones, who retired after last season. … Besides the Uptons and Uggla, Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward also showed up early. Gonzalez said everyone who was expected showed up on time.