Chavez and Dunn intensify bullpen battle
As the rain started to pelt Roger Dean Stadium this afternoon, Braves manager Bobby Cox gained the sense the game might be called after five or six innings. Fortunately for Jesse Chavez and left-hander Mike Dunn, the entire game was played, allowing them a chance to improve their places in the battle for the final available bullpen spots.
After his team’s 4-2 win over the Marlins, Cox said that he had just seen Dunn and Chavez provide their strongest efforts so far during the exhibition season.
Dunn, who has allowed just one run in 6 1/3 innings, recorded a strikeout in a scoreless ninth inning. During his perfect eighth inning, Chavez showed that he is able to command his fastball better than he had during his four previous outings.
“Chavez was better,” Cox said. “He kept the ball down better. He gave up two long flies, but at least he kept the ball down…He’s not wild, wild. He just gets it up.”
While Chavez has now provided three consecutive scoreless appearances, it’s apparent that he isn’t producing the same kind of optimism that he did after the bullpen sessions he completed during the early days of camp. It also doesn’t help that he allowed seven earned runs in the first 2 2/3 innings he worked this year.
As mentioned earlier today, Craig Kimbrel and Jonny Venters have pushed themselves to the front of the pack in the battle to gain the final available bullpen spots. They’ll both be available to pitch on Thursday afternoon against the Cardinals.
While visiting his former manager before today’s game, Marlins utility man Wes Helms had nothing but praiseworthy things to say about Kimbrel and Venters, who he had seen for the first time on Tuesday afternoon at Disney.
NOTES: Brian McCann kept his hot bat alive on Wednesday afternoon with a third-inning single that plated three runs. But while going just 1-for-3 against the Marlins, the All-Star catcher saw his batting average dip to .500 (9-for-18).
“Mac is ready, I don’t know what to do with him the rest of the spring,” Cox jokingly said.
Speaking of batting average, Nate McLouth went hitless in his three at-bats and is now hitting .036 (1-for-28). But if you’re once again stretching for the positives, you can take note of the fact that he hasn’t struck out in either of the past two games.
At the other end of the spectrum, Jason Heyward singled in the sixth inning and went 1-for-3 to lower his batting average to .440 (11-for-25). More importantly, the 20-year-old right fielder has now reached safely in each of the 11 games he has played this year.
“You’re never going to shut him down,” Cox said. “He’s either going to walk get a hit or do something.”