There are many reasons the Atlanta Braves sit atop the National League East just about halfway through the 2018 MLB season, but one of them is the way Daniel Winkler has mowed down batters out of the bullpen.
The 28-year-old right-hander has finished five games for the first-place Braves this year, and he’s appeared in 32 others. Over that stretch, he’s allowed just nine earned runs for an ERA of 2.34, all while striking out 44 in under 35 innings. And his 0.952 WHIP has bolstered the reliever corps of a team with eyes on its first postseason trip in five years.
If it weren’t for a season of depending on God, however, Winkler may never have ascended to his current role.
“I had to lean on God,” he told Jason Romano on the Sports Spectrum podcast. “I had to lean on Him because I didn’t know what was going to happen … (or) if I was going to play again.”
Faith, then, was Winkler’s cure for overcoming an injury-riddled start to his Braves career. After a Tommy John surgery with the Colorado Rockies, he was taken by Atlanta in the Rule 5 Draft, only to visit the disabled list and later fracture his elbow in April 2016. But trust in God, which followed a full embrace of his Christian beliefs as an up-and-coming major leaguer, helped paved his way to health and, now, fortitude within the Braves bullpen.
It’s why Winkler, who grew up Catholic and felt the Holy Spirit “chasing me down” in high school but only surrendered his life to Christ as a pro, now views his MLB stardom as a vessel for sharing the Gospel.
“For me, it’s hard to fathom the creator of Heaven and Earth [pursuing] me,” he said. “You experience it, and I just want to share Christ’s message with everybody. I want to shout it from a mountaintop. I want everybody to be saying, like, how amazing it is. And I think baseball is my mountaintop.”
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