Armed with a new contract and a healthy body, Calgary's Chris Reitsma is ready for the 2006 baseball season.
The Atlanta Braves reliever arrived in sunny Orlando, Fla., yesterday, where he and the club's other pitchers and catchers report today before beginning spring training workouts tomorrow.
Last month, the 28-year-old signed a one-year, $2.75 million US contract and was thrilled he didn't have to go through arbitration again like he did in 2004, when he lost his case.
"This year was easier than it was in other years," said Reitsma, who was 3-6 with a 3.93 ERA and led the Braves with 15 saves last season.
"They came to the table pretty strong and wanted to get it done quick and it only took a week or two to get it done, so it was nice because I could sit back and enjoy the rest of the off-season."
It'll be interesting to see if Reitsma can re-gain the closer role with the Braves.
Last season, when former Brave Danny Kolb struggled, manager Bobby Cox gave Reitsma the ball in the ninth inning until August, when the Braves acquired Kyle Farnsworth, who ended the season as the club's closer, while Reitsma went back to the setup role.
Farnsworth has sinced signed with the New York Yankees, so right now, the job is up for grabs.
"It's weird to say but I guess I'm considered the veteran of the group and I'm only 28 years old," said Reitsma with a laugh.
"It's my sixth year in the big leagues already and the rest of the guys in the bullpen are younger. They're anywhere from 21 to 24 or 25. But (team brass) hasn't really told me anything about that. They haven't sat down with me but I do have the most experience and I definitely want the job."
After appearing in 160 games over the past two seasons, the right-hander also needed to focus on healing some nagging injuries and he said he's coming into spring training in tip-top shape.
"I'm ready to go. Last year I had a couple of bumps and bruises along the way but those winter months were good to me," said Reitsma. "No matter who you are, if you play in that many games, you're going to have some things that aren't physically right with you and I'm not bionic."
While spring training is here, the inaugural World Baseball Classic is set to begin March 3 and Reitsma will be a part of Team Canada.
"I'm really excited about it. I'm looking forward to putting on the Maple Leaf jersey and going out there and having some fun playing against the best baseball players from other countries," said the 6-ft. 5-in., 235-pounder.
"It's the first time it's ever been done, so it's going to be a blast and I'm looking forward to meeting some new people and getting it done."
Canada will be in Pool B along with the U.S., Mexico and South Africa. The Pool B games will be played at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Scottsdale Stadium, Spring Training home of the San Francisco Giants.