Chadwick Tromp (Who?) has played a big role in the Braves’ early season success

ATLANTA — Chadwick Tromp is from Aruba, a Caribbean island that is a self-governing country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. He speaks four languages ​​fluently, has a warm smile and a subtle sense of humor, is one of the top two chess players in the Atlanta Braves clubhouse (Max Fried is the other) and has a knack for making friends and earning of respect from peers everywhere. he goes.

How else to explain how a player with only 46 games played in parts of five Major League seasons, including 13 games with the Braves in three seasons, can be so popular among teammates and Braves coaches, and receive so much praise from others catchers and pitchers young and old, including some he’s known for only a few months?

“Great catcher and great game-caller,” Braves pitcher Reynaldo López said of Tromp, who has picked up two of his three starts in López’s first season as a Brave and first as a starter since 2021, which has thus far exceeded any reasonable expectations for the right-hander with the 0.50 ERA.

“Oh my God, I’m in love with this kid,” said Eddie Perez, a former Braves defensive-first catcher who is now a coach and works closely with Braves catching coach Sal Fasano and the team’s veteran catching duo, Travis d’ Arnaud and Sean Murphy, and with Tromp when he is with the team at spring training and serves as a fill-in for the two.

That’s what Tromp has done since Murphy, a 2023 All-Star, went on the 10-day injured list with a strained oblique suffered in the second game of the season. It’s probably at least another two to three weeks before Murphy returns.

Tromp was recalled from Triple A and quickly made his way to Philadelphia after Murphy was injured. The next day, Tromp caught veteran Chris Sale’s Braves debut, an impressive 5 1/3 inning outing in which Sale worked out a pair of jams and limited the Phillies to five hits, two runs and two walks with seven strikeouts.

Afterwards, Sale unsolicitedly praised Tromp, whom he met during spring training but only pitched a few innings in one Grapefruit League game. Sale is six years older than the 29-year-old Tromp, 10 inches taller than the 6-foot-4 catcher and has about 12 years of MLB service time remaining.

Despite these differences and Tromp’s relative lack of experience, there was Tromp in Philadelphia, just after Triple A, guiding one of the best pitchers of the past decade through Sale’s first game with a new team in a new league. He helped Sale get locked up with his vaunted slider on a day when the pitch initially didn’t feel right.

Braves pitching coach Rick Kranitz speaks with Chadwick Tromp and Chris Sale in the fifth inning against the Phillies on March 31. (Rick Kranitz/USA Today)

“I threw the first pair in the bullpen and gave it a little tug,” Sale said. “And then I just got my direction a little bit better. That was all on Trompy. He saw it evolve throughout the game and saw the swings and the control I had with it. He led me through that game and I got into quite a bit of trouble, and again he helped me get out of it. So I have a lot of confidence in him behind the plate, and it was a pleasure to be able to throw to him.”

That went so well that Tromp was assigned Sale’s next start, when the lanky left-hander limited the Arizona Diamondbacks to four hits and two runs without a walk in 5 1/3 innings.

Tromp also made López’s Braves debut, a strong six-inning outing in cold, wet conditions in Chicago against the pitcher’s former team, the White Sox. He held them to four hits, one run and two walks.

When Tromp picked up his third start two weeks later in Houston, López limited a tough Astros lineup to four hits in six scoreless innings with one walk and seven strikeouts.

“I really have to commend all the work he puts in,” López said. “Prior to the game, he’s out there scouting and analyzing the starter and the at-bats he’s had against that lineup before. He comes up with a good game plan. And not just those things, but also the way he communicates. His communication with us and the way we work together when we’re on the mound. Like I said, I think he’s a great catcher and a great game caller.”

After those comments from López, Tromp was asked how he felt that both Sale and López went out of their way to thank him for his match calling, preparation and communication.

“To be honest, it feels good,” said Tromp. “It’s a lot of work that we put in before the game, with the catchers and the coaches – Sal and Eddie, and Travy and Sean – just going over the pitchers that day. And just go out and have fun, man. That’s why I’m here, I’m going to try to help the team win every day.

“Right now the idea is to give Travy the day (off) and come in and try to help the team win.”

Snitker said he plans to continue catching Tromp once every three games while Murphy is on the IL to limit the wear and tear on d’Arnaud, who hit three home runs, including a grand slam in Friday’s opening win against Texas.

D’Arnaud, 35, also saw Saturday night’s game, but Snitker expects Tromp to watch Sunday night’s series finale, with rookie Darius Vines making his second start of the season in a nationally televised game on ESPN. Vines knows Tromp from spring training and last season at Triple A, and feels comfortable with him and the other catchers.

“It’s a great veteran presence between Murphy and d’Arnaud, and Trompy is clearly learning from those two,” Vines said. “His pitch calling has gotten really, really good. I mean, (Tuesday) it was a sign – him and Reynaldo, they pitched a really good game, and when the bullpen came in, Trompy did a really good job. It’s something big. Every team has at least one solid catcher, but having a two-headed monster is pretty crazy, and then you can add the third (Tromp).”

The Braves believe they have the best catching group in baseball and that the culture they have developed under Fasano and communication with pitchers has been a key part of their success. Tromp has fit seamlessly into that mix in the four years he has been with the organization: he was present at the daily catchers’ meetings at spring training and when he was with the team during the season.

Tromp said it’s “like high school” working with Fasano, Perez and the veteran catchers.

“I tell people all the time, that’s my favorite part of the day, when we get to spend time in those meetings and we just go through things and have fun,” Tromp said. “It calms the nerves. And for me, I think we have the best catching group in the league. I love those guys and they make sure I get ready for the game the best I can, and I think that has translated.

The high level of catching and communication from the group is immediately apparent to pitchers new to the Braves.

“They’re very well prepared,” reliever Aaron Bummer said in his first year with Atlanta after being traded from the White Sox. “And at this point in the game you have to be as prepared as possible and trust your stuff, and trust that the catchers’ fingers that are going down are the right ones – you just go out there and execute your plan, and Nine times out of ten, if you execute your plan, you will be successful.”

When asked about Tromp, Bummer said: “I’ve been a fan. Every time I threw, we were in constant contact, talking about the plan I had. And I think he’s done a great job dealing with the staff. He does a great job of coming in and putting in the work and effort with all the catchers, and getting to know each pitcher – the way they like to work and the way their stuff plays. I think he did a very good job.”

Braves manager Brian Snitker is a former minor league catcher who didn’t make it past Double A as a player. He admires players who have to work hard to progress in their careers, players who were not top prospects or high draft picks (Tromp signed as an international free agent with the Cincinnati Reds at the age of 18) and who bounce between Triple A and the majors without complaint.

Tromp has done that since the Braves claimed him off waivers from the San Francisco Giants in September 2021 and was designated for assignment and assigned directly to Triple-A Gwinnett the following April. After playing just one game with Atlanta in 2022 (he went 3-for-4 with two doubles) and six games last season, largely while d’Arnaud was sidelined by a concussion, Tromp is already in six games this season started.

He has three doubles and five RBIs in 18 at-bats, including a key two-run double in the ninth inning of Tuesday’s win at Houston. But his defense, play calling and communication have been consistently praised.

“We’re really lucky, first of all, that we have two guys like Travis and Murph,” Snitker said. “And then having someone who can fill in like Tromp, that’s very good. Because he is Real Good. I don’t think he gets enough credit. He has great touch and can pitch, block and receive. The guys love throwing to him, and we’re lucky to have someone like that.

“He’s also one of those guys who’s kind of a pitcher-first guy, and he goes out there (to hit) and he’s aggressive. That bat isn’t on safety when he’s in the batter’s box, that’s for sure. And that way he can also do some damage.”

“Brian and I were just talking about (Tromp),” Perez said after the game in Houston on Tuesday. “I told him that (shortstop Orlando) Arcia said, ‘I’m impressed with the way he catches the ball, he frames every throw the right way.’ And I said to Arcia, ‘He’s really good. He’s a hard worker. He wants to learn.’

(Top photo by Chadwick Tromp: Troy Taormina / USA Today)