Braves sign Charlie Culberson to minor league deal as a pitcher

Charlie Culberson is back (again, again, again)! The fan favorite is getting his shot as a pitcher.
Colorado Rockies v Atlanta Braves
Colorado Rockies v Atlanta Braves / Daniel Shirey/GettyImages

Fan favorite Charlie Culberson is returning to the Atlanta Braves and he's getting a shot to prove it on the mound. No, seriously.

The 34-year-old spent over a month on the Braves' active roster as an infielder last season but only appeared in one game. In 2024, he looks to compete for one of the final spots in a loaded Braves bullpen.

Culberson is the first known non-roster invitee for the Braves' 2024 Spring Training camp.

How a whirlwind 2023 season turned Charlie Culberson into a pitcher

Culberson had a whirlwind 2023. After signing with the Rays and competing for a spot, he was ultimately let go before the season began. The then utility infielder signed a minor league deal with the Braves and opened with the Gwinnett Stripers.

Despite a relatively poor hitting performance, the Braves called him up on May 19th because they needed a backup infielder who would be okay sitting on the bench.

And sat on the bench he did. Despite being on the active roster for the next month, he didn't appear in a single game before being designated for assignment with the Braves needing to add a third catcher.

He elected free agency, but ultimately re-signed with the team and was added back to the major league roster 12 days after being designated for assignment.

He spend the next 17 days on the bench before finally appearing in a game on July 16. It was his only game of the season before he was again designated for assignment after the club acquired Nicky Lopez.

He once again elected free agency before re-signing with the team on August 4, then he disappeared for over a month. On September 17, he re-emerged as a pitcher.

What Charlie Culberson brings on the mound

Culberson's pitching abilities are no joke. In a limited sample size, he was showing off Max Scherzer-level spin rates back in 2019.

His fastball topped out at 93.6 MPH during his four pitching outings in the minors this past season, and in the three games he pitched as a true pitcher, he averaged 91.5 MPH on the gun. He also has an 84th-percentile spin rate on his slider.

Last season, he had a 4.91 ERA in Gwinnett in 3.2 innings, but he also had a 22.7% strikeout rate.

Braves fans shouldn't expect Culberson to suddenly become a high-leverage reliever, but his stuff could easily play as a low-leverage save-the bullpen-type arm. The bullpen only has a spot or two left as things stand now, but injuries throughout the season could easily get Culberson to the bigs as a pitcher.