Thursday’s 2023 MLB Opening Day provides a fresh start and new hope for Kauai native and Atlanta Braves reliever Kirby Yates. It will be his first full season since 2019, back when he was named an All-Star.
Yates’ 2020 season was cut short due to an injury. In 2021, his season with the was over before it began due to needing Tommy John surgery.
All the latest sports news from Hawaii’s sports station
After appearing in nine games for the Braves to end the 2022 season, Yates is eager to show what he can do in a full year again.
“I’m ready, man. I mean, I kind of been waiting three years for this year,” Yates told KHON2 sports director Rob DeMello. “I haven’t had a chance to kind of really pitch since 2019. I’m finally at ease that I can kind of sit here and breathe a little bit knowing that I’m on a team and I’m going to participate in another opening day and get to go and help a really, really good team win.”
With the Braves, Yates is on a team that won the 2021 World Series and is viewed as one of the modern models of baseball consistency. Atlanta is expected to contend in 2023, as well as a handful of years after.
“I feel confident that I’m going to be able to be a guy to be relied on and do all that kind of stuff,” said Yates, who had a career-high 41 saves in 2019 and figures to pitch in high-leverage situations in 2023. “So for me, that’s the biggest thing. I just want to be a reliable guy that can help my team win every night.
“I think the excitement is is overwhelming in a sense just because you just want to get going early because we know we’re in an absolutely loaded division. It’s definitely going to be tough and so you just got to go out there and play the games and take it day by day. And you got to try and win the division first and go from there. I think we know we’re as talented as any other team, but there’s 29 other teams that think the same thing right now and that’s the beauty about spring training is when you leave spring training, everybody thinks they have a shot. So we like it, we love it and can’t wait to get started.”
Below are other MLB players with Hawaii ties on opening day rosters:
Kolten Wong, second base, Seattle Mariners (University of Hawaii)
Josh Rojas, infielder, Arizona Diamondbacks (University of Hawaii)
Isiah Kiner-Falefa, shortstop, New York Yankees (Mid-Pacific)