LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Max Fried came to his first big league camp intent on not allowing himself to be in awe of his surroundings. But the challenge hasn't necessarily been easy for the highly regarded Braves prospect, who grew up rooting for Matt Kemp and the Dodgers.
Along with having his locker just a few steps away from the one utilized by Kemp, Fried has also had the pleasure to spend the first week of Spring Training being paired in the same group as Bartolo Colon for pitcher fielding drills. Fried was just 3 years old when Colon made his Major League debut and thus has never known the Major Leagues to exist without the presence of Big Bart.
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"It's mostly surreal being around all of these guys that I grew up watching," the 23-year-old Fried said. "Now, you're in the same clubhouse and on the same field as them. Within the next week or two, I'm going to be on the same field competing with them in games. So, I'm just trying to slow myself down, relax and let it happen."
Fried missed the 2015 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery and encountered some rust through the early portion of last season. But as the final months unfolded, he showed why he was considered one of baseball's top overall prospects before undergoing surgery. Fried posted a 5.21 ERA and recorded 40 strikeouts while issuing 28 walks over the 48 1/3 innings totaled through his first 10 starts with Class A Rome. Over the 54 2/3 innings totaled within his other 11 regular season starts, he posted a 2.80 ERA, notched 72 strikeouts and issued just 19 walks.
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Killing any potential concerns about his endurance at the end of what was his first full season since 2013, Fried notched 10 strikeouts in both of his final two regular season starts and then totaled 24 strikeouts while allowing just two runs over 14 2/3 innings during the South Atlantic League playoffs.
While Fried might begin the upcoming season with Double-A Mississippi, there is a chance he could get a call to the big league level at some point this year. But for now, he is simply soaking in the opportunity to be surrounded by some of his childhood heroes.
"You get kind of intimidated with all of the names and allow your confidence to be wavered," Fried said. "I'm here for a reason. So, I've just got to go out there, stay within myself and be who I can be."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.