Redman hopes for good fit with Braves

Redman hopes to find a good fit with Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As the weeks and months of the offseason elapsed, Mark Redman found himself constantly monitoring the Internet in hopes of getting a sense of which organization would finally be willing to give him the Major League contract that he felt he deserved.

"I'm so sick of ESPN and MLB.com and FoxSportsNet.com and SI.com," Redman said. "No offense, you guys do great coverage and everything. But I tell you what, my eyes hurt from looking at those computers so many times."

As Redman made this jestful remark on Saturday afternoon at Disney's Wide World of Sports complex, his eyes were certainly somewhat bleary. Over the course of the previous 24 hours, he'd finally found an employer, experienced the pitfalls of commercial travel and found time to get approximately four hours of sleep.

And still, after hearing the Braves say it wasn't necessary, a determined Redman still chose to make Saturday's start against the Blue Jays.

"I really wanted the ball," said Redman after limiting the Blue Jays to one earned run and three hits in three innings. "I wanted to get out where I belong, and that's out on a baseball field."

For most of the past four months, Redman's baseball experiences were limited to the work he did on his own at his home in Tulsa, Okla. Every time a potential employer expressed interest, they did so without the guarantee of a Major League contract.

But when the Braves came calling with a Minor League contract offer on Thursday, Redman realized it was time to put his pride to rest and begin a journey that he hopes will prove that his left arm is still capable of many more productive seasons at the Major League level.

"It's not about money," the 33-year-old said. "It's about opportunity. I didn't have much of an opportunity this year."

Last year, Redman was 11-10 with a 5.71 ERA for the same Royals organization that gave Gil Meche a five-year, $55 million contract in December. While Meche and some other less-than-accomplished hurlers were reaping the financial benefits of the free-agent market, Redman patiently waited for any sort of guaranteed contract.

Changing employers wasn't anything new for Redman, who is with his seventh organization in a span of six years. But the left-hander, who has made 186 career starts, had never been subjected to this lack of interest.

"You're sitting there saying, 'What do I need to do?' " he said.

When pitchers and catchers reported in the middle of February, Redman was shocked that he still hadn't found employment. Just four years ago, he'd posted 14 wins for the World Series champion Marlins, and his 11-10 record last year was remarkable in the fact that it came with a Royals team that lost 100 games.

But Redman's wait finally came to a close on Thursday, when he realized that Atlanta was a good fit. The Braves were in need of somebody to fill the void created on Wednesday, when Mike Hampton went down with a left oblique strain that will likely sideline him for at least two months.

When he agreed to the contract early Friday, Redman caught the first available flight out of Tulsa. A delay preceding a layover forced him to make a mad dash through the spacious Detroit airport.

In actuality, he was racing to catch a flight to Orlando. But with every step, he was also running away from the 195 losses he's seen his previous two employers, the Pirates and Royals, combine for over the past two years.

"You want to be on a team that expects to win and has a tradition of winning, instead of trying to find a way to win or how to win," he said. "They just expect it, and they work hard, and they know how to do it. That's the atmosphere that you want to put yourself in."

Fortunately for the Braves, their initial impression of Redman was a positive one. Two of the hits he gave up to the Blue Jays were infield singles, and the triple he surrendered to Matt Stairs would have been another single if Andruw Jones hadn't attempted a tough diving catch in right-center field.

"For coming right out of his basement, he did pretty good," said manager Bobby Cox before increasing his praise with, "He didn't do pretty good, he did great."

Because of flight delays and troubles getting his rental car, Redman didn't get to his Disney-area hotel until 4 a.m. on Saturday. Five hours later he was giving blood during his physical. Then, a short time later, he was finally pitching for a Major League team again.

No longer would he be forced to have some of his neighbors stand in as batters. He now had a chance to see how Major League hitters would react to the cutter that had provided him some success during his final eight starts last year.

Of course, on two of those occasions, the hitters reacted with a grimace. But such is the case when you're hit with a fastball that is traveling at about 89 mph.

"At least I didn't walk anybody," he said.

If all goes according to plan, Redman could make $1.2 million with the Braves this year. He says he could have accepted other Minor League offers that included performance bonuses that would have tripled this salary, but it appears that he's happy just to have the chance to prove his career is far from over.

"I don't know why things didn't work out or interests weren't there," he said. "But this is one way to create interest."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.