Braves struggle through the early days of the exhibition season
There has not been much reason to get overly excited about what the Braves have shown through the first four games of the Grapefruit League season. They notched one hit in the opener, got blasted 18-3 the next day and then followed Monday’s win over the Astros with a ho-hum offensive effort against the Nationals.
Freddie Freeman got through Tuesday’s game without any problems with his knee and Martin Prado has provided some early indication that he is feeling comfortable at the plate. But the Braves have gone through their rotation for the first time without seeing Tommy Hanson and Chipper Jones has now missed four straight games as he has rested sore legs.
In the grand scheme of things, there is not much reason to worry about either of these players. Jones will still have plenty of time to compile his necessary at-bats before the regular season begins. Hanson seems to be in line to make his exhibition season debut on Sunday and should be ready to start one of the regular season’s first six games.
But the Braves did not necessarily need to add to their list of worries this early in camp.
Hanson has said that he is still comfortable with the altered delivery that he developed in January. But it would have been in his best interest to spend the six weeks of Spring Training without any distractions. Along with gaining more comfort with his delivery, he needs to shake off some of the rust that has developed since his right shoulder forced him to end his 2011 season in early August.
Speaking of rust, Jair Jurrjens understandably showed some during his two-inning debut against the Astros on Monday. His fastball topped out at 90 mph and rested between 87-88 mph. He seemed happy with the outing and said that his right knee was not a problem. But at least one American League scout said he thought Jurrjens was still a little tentative when he was throwing his breaking ball.
Sticking with the Curacao theme, the most exciting player in Braves camp this year has been shortstop Andrelton Simmons. He’s one of the guys that can dazzle during infield practice. But along with living up to the defensive expectations, he might not be too far away from the Majors from an offensive perspective.
Simmons entered camp widely recognized as the best shortstop in the Braves system. The next few weeks and months will provide better indication about how soon he could make his way to the Majors.
There is no doubt Simmons could benefit if he can spend at least half this season facing pitching at the Double-A or Triple-A Minor League levels. But if he passes the necessary tests and Tyler Pastornicky struggles at the big league level, the Braves may have a tough decision to make at some point this season.
NOTE: As long as Thursday’s live BP session goes well, Tommy Hanson will start Sunday’s game against the Blue Jays in Disney. Kris Medlen will be scheduled to enter in the third inning and pitch three innings. The Braves will send Sean Gilmartin or one of their other younger pitchers to start the split-squad game against the Blue Jays in Dunedin that day.