The Braves played six games this week with 2 wins, 3 losses, and 1 tie in 10 innings against St. Louis on Sunday. The Braves made their first cuts of the spring, and some Braves players made their way to the World Baseball Classic for some actual competition. But first, a look at the bullpen and the bench,
Despite some positive news about Minter and Rivero early in the week, neither managed to get into a game and are increasingly looking like they may start the season on the DL. While they have not made the transactions official, Daniel Winkler and Jacob Lindgren will begin the season on the 60-man disabled list.
Of those looking for the one or two bullpen spots, Blaine Boyer likely had the worst week of those still in contention. Boyer allowed six runs in an outing on Thursday, five of them earned. The Yankees mostly bled him to death, hitting the ball in front of outfielders and getting two walks, including one of the bases-loaded variety. It was a textbook example of what can go wrong with a pitchers whose success depends on inducing weak contact; Boyer did that, but the Yankees were patient enough to take what Boyer gave them.
Chaz Roe on the other hand finally had his first scoreless outing, pitching around a hit and two walks. Roe is out of options and will need to be passed through waivers to be sent down if he doesn’t make the team out of spring training.
Lefties Eric O’Flaherty and Paco Rodriguez kept up their strong work. O’Flaherty seems to have regained some of the bite on his sinker and an uptick in velocity since his offseason surgery to relieve pressure on a nerve in his pitching elbow. So far he has allowed only one run this spring. Likewise, Rodriguez as only allowed one run this spring, and this week appeared in two games with two days of rest. As well as he’s pitching, Rodriguez may be sent to AAA to continue easing back from missing a season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. The Braves have shown to be very conservative with relievers coming back, and they may not allow Rodriguez to work back-to-back nights.
The two bullpen prospects, Luke Jackson and Akeel Morris, continued to show well. Jackson pitched his fourth scoreless outing on Friday, and has struck out three. He has also walked three, one in each of his last three appearances. Morris has only had two appearances, and he struck out three in two innings his first time out. On Saturday, he gave up a solo run but otherwise pitched effectively. Both are likely to start the season in AAA, but are making good impressions for the inevitable future promotion opportunities.
Cut: OF/1B Christian Walker
Injured: OF Dustin Peterson
On the bench front, long-shot candidate Christian Walker is no longer in competition because he was claimed off waivers by the Cincinnati Reds. It is likely that the Braves placed Walker on waivers immediately after they themselves claimed him from the Baltimore Orioles in an effort to sneak him off the 40-man roster. This tactic worked in January with outfielder Adam Walker, but not for a second time.
First baseman Matt Tuiasosopo took advantage this week of Freddie Freeman‘s absence and Christian Walker’s waiver claim to place himself in the bench conversation. The 30-year-old minor league free agent signee hit three home runs this week, in fact hitting them in three consecutive plate appearances over two games.
Infielder Chase d’Arnaud, considered a strong favorite for a bench role coming into spring, has been slowed by the flu and bronchitis the last two weeks. This has opened up playing time for infielder Johan Camargo, who has impressed with improved hitting. Camargo owns a .893 OPS in 31 plate appearances this spring. Going against his reputation however has been some uncharacteristically sloppy defensive work at shortstop.
In addition to losing Christian Walker to the Reds on waivers, the Braves made the following roster moves this week:
- Optioned LHP Jesse Biddle to AA Mississippi
- Optioned RHP Jason Hursh to AAA Gwinnett
- Reassigned to minor league camp LHPs Sam Freeman, Adam Kolarak, Sean Newcomb; RHPs Rhiner Cruz and Patrick Weigel; OF Dustin Peterson
Freeman vs. Teheran
Colombia defeated Canada in Pool C first round action on Saturday, in part behind some stand-out pitching by the Braves’ own Julio Teheran, who was extremely effective. Teheran went five innings and only allowed two hits and one run, striking out three batters. However, one of those hits was an RBI single by Braves teammate Freddie Freeman. Freeman was later erased trying to steal.
Freeman looked to have a second hit off Teheran in the 4th inning, but Colombia was employing an extreme shift where third baseman Giovanny Urshela was playing in shallow right field. Freeman lined the ball to shallow right and Urshela made an athletic play to catch the ball as it hooked toward the foul line.
TSN, Canada’s version of ESPN, aired a touching video featuring Freddie Freeman and his reasoning for representing Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic.
Quotes of Spring
The last thing you want to do is rush guys back and then a four-to-five day deal becomes a three-to-four week deal. We’ll take extra time with him.
Early on, everything was there. We’re at a point where we’re putting everything together and have everything really start clicking. I’m pretty dang close.
No, I just let it eat.
Austin Riley could be Freddie Freeman’s protection in the lineup within the next two to three years. That’s what we’re shooting for. So, I’m really trying to talk the mental side of hitting as opposed to the fundamentals because the fundamentals are there.
– Guest instructor Chipper Jones, on how he’s coaching Braves third base prospect Austin Riley.