A review of the Grapefruit League opener
One game into the Braves exhibition season, Tommy Hanson has provided the reminder that he’s a special talent and Martin Prado has already laced a couple of liners that provide indication that he can still hit with his slimmed-down frame.
And of course, Mr Heyward took advantage of the opportunity to prove his game consists of much more than the power potential that fueled all of those batting practice stories that you read last week.
Bobby Cox called Heyward’s third-inning single through the right side of the infield, “ “the hardest-hit single you’ll ever see in your life.” But just as impressive was the 20-year-old outfielder’s ability to draw a walk after falling behind with a 1-2 count in the first inning.
After showing good bat control while fouling off an offspeed pitch that seemed to initially fool him, Heyward showed great poise while sitting on a 3-2 curveball. Then two innings later wanting to increase Yunel Escobar’s options to drive him home with one out, the 6-foot-5, 245-pound outfielder easily swiped third base.
As Heyward slid into third base, I immediately thought about Chipper Jones saying that the phenom would earn a spot on the Opening Day roster once he proved that he has a grasp of the finer points of the game — like knowing when to hit to the right side and knowing when to take an extra base.
After the game, I caught up with Darryl Strawberry, who is in camp with the Mets as a special instructor. The eight-time All-Star had some praise for the Braves outfielder, who has drawn comparisons to him.
“He has a tremendous amount of confidence in himself,” Strawberry said. “That’s a big part of this game. If you believe in yourself, you can excel. He has a good idea about what the game is all about. He’s going to go through some highs and lows. That’s just what the game is all about for everybody. If he stays focused and plays hard, he will be very special.”
Check out more of Strawberry’s comments within a story that should post shortly on MLB.com and braves.com.
If Heyward isn’t deemed ready for the Majors at the conclusion of camp, the starting rightfielder’s job will go to Melky Cabrera, who laced a single the other way during the second inning and made an over-the-shoulder catch that drew attention from Cox.
“It wasn’t a great play,” Cox said. “But it was a (darn) good play in these conditions with the wind and you couldn’t see the ball.”
Cox also took time to send some praise in the direction of Kris Medlen, who allowed one hit and registered a strikeout in two scoreless innings.
Tuesday’s negatives: Nate McLouth experienced a rough debut with a pair of strikeouts, including one that was registered with a questionable call on a check swing. Another former Pirate, Jesse Chavez also proved unable to provide the same kind of impression he had during the early days of camp.
Chavez was charged with three runs — two earned — three hits and one walk in just one inning of work. His damage might have been reduced had shortstop Brandon Hicks not lost a liner in the sun.
“Chavez was just geeked up a little bit, just fastball, fastball, fastball,” Cox said. “He fell behind and got hit. He didn’t really have a chance to pitch.”
Tomorrow’s game: Tim Hudson is scheduled to pitch the first two innings of Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Mets at Disney. Peter Moylan and Eric O’Flaherty headline the cast of relievers who are scheduled to appear. Chipper Jones and Troy Glaus should also be making their exhibition season debuts.