When the 2015 season started, I doubt Matt Marksberry had any idea of just the craziness to come for him. He started out in High A Carolina, where he pitched to a 2.78 ERA and a .175 BAA. He was one of the players involved in the Mudcats bus crash last season, though he left relatively unscathed. He skipped over AA and got a splash at AAA, before being called up to the major leagues. He struggled there with walks, but went into this spring with high hopes for a shot at the major league roster. The Braves dropped a surprise, demoting him all the way to AA Mississippi, the level he had originally skipped.
Marksberry is a solid left handed reliever, with a good fastball and improving off speed stuff. He was drafted as a 15th rounder in 2013, but had 2 average seasons before breaking out last season. 2016 hopes to be a good season for Marksberry, who with a good performance appears to be able to move up quickly. He will be battling in Mississippi with fellow lefties Hunter Cervenka and Kyle Kinman, who after great seasons last year could be looking at a promotion. With only one lefty in the Braves bullpen, Marksberry is just an injury or poor performer away from a return to Atlanta. I had the opportunity to chat with him about his offseason, spring training, and his outlook for this season.
How did your experience differ between your first major league spring training and your time in minor league spring training?
In Major League camp there's a lot more going on, and there's more guys having to do different things. There's more structure, and you have to get your work in a smaller allotted amount of time. In the minor leagues there are a lot of guys there, but there are also a lot of fields and different coaches. In the big league camp there's not, so you have to work around that. The atmosphere is also different. There are a lot of fans at the games, and at the minor league there are honestly no fans. It's night and day really, but in both you get your work in. You're just there to try to get better. Other than everything is similar, because when you step between those lines you've got to play the same game.
You were on the major league roster last year, but got demoted to Mississippi this year. What was your reaction to being told that and what do you want to improve on to try to get back to Atlanta this season?
I'm not gonna lie, I was a little shocked but it's all good. I'm going back down to get a little bit more work in. I shot up through the minors to the majors really quick. I only spent about 8 months in the minor leagues before I got called up, so I didn't spend a lot of time down here. For me, I want to be a little bit more consistent, and if I am a little bit more consistent I'm pretty sure I'll be back up there at some point this year
Did the Braves give you a reason that you needed to be back in the minor leagues?
No, they just told me I needed to be a little more seasoned and a little bit more consistent. It happens to a lot of people, and it's a business so I understand their views on it. They just wanted me to get a little bit more work.
Did your first taste of the major leagues change your approach to pitching or to your preparation?
Nah I was the same guy. I did the same things up there that I did in the minor leagues. I didn't change anything because what got me there was what I wanted to use. That's what I did, and subconsciously you focus a little bit more but other than that my routines or anything like that never changed.
You were part of the Mudcats bus crash last year. Did that have any lingering effects on you throughout the season and into the offseason?
Injury-wise no. Mentally it's kind of hard to get into planes, ride in cars, and stuff like that because any little jerk or anything like that scares everybody. You can ask anyone who was in that bus crash, they all get a little wary when they get on buses and they'll get scared. It's harder to sleep on buses because it happened at night, so I guarantee you those first couple of bus trips here I'm not going to be able to sleep.
Is there a pitch in particular you have tried to develop throughout this offseason and spring training?
This whole offseason and spring training I've been working on a change up, so I can combat righties. It's been something that I've been wanting to have and I think I've got a pretty decent one now. I'm just going to keep refining it and getting it better so I can be a full inning lefty instead of a lefty-on-lefty guy.
Do you have any advice you would give to young pitchers who want to succeed past the high school level?
The biggest thing I want to say to young kids is honestly just don't let anybody tell you you can't do anything, because if you put your mind to it and you work hard and you put your heart and soul into something you can do anything you want. Pure talent only gets you so far, it's the extra stuff, going the extra mile, it's putting the extra work, it's having the mental ability to pitch poorly and try to come back the next day and feel confident in yourself. If kids these days will just try their best and put everything they have into something, and work..that's the biggest thing, you have to work. You can have all the talent in the world you want but if you don't work at something you're never gonna get anywhere with it.
We usually end with this, do you have a message to say to Braves fans?
Chopnation, stay strong. This is a process, we're gonna be a good club. Trust the process, they all know what they're doing up there and they're gonna make this organization great.