LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – At 6 feet 8 and at least 270 pounds, relief pitcher Adam Russell is believed to be largest man to wear an Atlanta Braves uniform.
Some have joked that he’d be worth having on the major league roster regardless of how spring training goes, as a one-man deterrent against beanballs and brawls.
“We need to have him around for all nine innings – nothing would ever happen,” said former Braves manager Bobby Cox, upon first seeing the mammoth right-hander.
“Nobody’s charging the mound against him,” catcher David Ross said.
“What, they have football players here now?” said former Braves catcher and guest camp instructor Javy Lopez, who did a double-take the first time he saw Russell.
Russell, 28, signed a minor league contract after posting a 3.03 ERA in 36 relief appearances for Tampa Bay, with more walks (20) than strikeouts (13) in 32-2/3 innings.
He has a 3.95 ERA in 85 career relief appearances in parts of four seasons with the White Sox, Padres and Rays, with 67 strikeouts and 46 walks in 86-2/3 innings.
Russell is a candidate for one of two vacancies in the bullpen, but would have to beat out the likes of Arodys Vizcaino, Jairo Asencio, Anthony Varvaro, Cory Gearrin and Rule 5 left-hander Robert Fish.
Five bullpen spots are likely set with closer Craig Kimbrel, left-handed setup men Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty, and right-handers Kris Medlen and Cristhian Martinez.