The Braves capped week-4 of Grapefruit League play over the weekend with a phenomenal outing by Julio Teheran, finishing the week with a 6-1 record.
Julio Teheran, as Andrew Hirsh wrote about here this week, has really thrived this Spring in a scenario that pins him against zero competition for the fifth starter spot. In Teheran’s 26 innings pitched this Spring, he has given up only 3 runs, 7 hits, 2 homers and has an incredible 9 walks to his 34 strikeouts. At the end of yesterday’s pitching gem, Teheran had a 1.04 ERA. Compare this to 2012 when Teheran left Spring Training with a 9.34 ERA and it’s safe to say that Teheran is right when he states that 2013 is his year.
Before noting the other pitching stories for the week, here are this week’s exhibition game scores (3/17-3/23):
|Blue Jays (SS)||10-5 (W)|
|Astros (SS)||3-2 (W)|
Both Tim Hudson and Paul Maholm finished the week with solid outings, turning around what has been an up-and-down Spring for both. Maholm is showing why he deserves to be in the second rotation spot behind Huddy. On Friday, Maholm struck out 5 Phillies in his 6 innings of work. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Maholm’s Spring is that he has not given up a single home run. None of the other projected starters can say that. Hudson went into his Thursday start worried about his arm strength after not executing pitches well in his previous outing. Those worries were erased when he pitched 6 scoreless innings with 5 strikeouts against the Nationals. Hudson, of course, didn’t need that arm strength when he surprised everyone by throwing a 47-mph knuckleball to former teammate Adam LaRoche. It’s safe to say this was a one-time thing and Huddy won’t be morphing into R.A. Dickey before our eyes.
Unlike Hudson and Maholm, Kris Medlen had an unusually ineffective outing. Oddly enough, Medlen got the win after giving up 14 hits and 9 earned runs in 5 innings against the Phillies. In an outing he likened to “dog poop,” Medlen couldn’t think of another time he had a worse outing in his career. Luckily, Spring stats wipe away when Opening Day arrives and the 6.27 ERA he currently has means little except for the experience it has provided the young starter.
Like Medlen, Craig Kimbrel struggled a bit this week. Since returning from the World Baseball Classic, Kimbrel has not been his usual lights-out self. So far this Spring while with the Braves in Florida, Kimbrel has a 7.50 ERA (a 9.00 in his March appearances). Nobody is worried, least of all Kimbrel, as Opening Day approaches. Kimbrel has continued to get at least 1 strikeout per appearance. Like so many closers, it is likely that Kimbrel thrives in the environment closers find themselves in during the regular season. He has not pitched in high pressure scenarios since his final game with Team USA and will likely return to form as pressure increases. Closers are a different breed of pitcher.
On the offensive side of the game, the Braves have been crushing the ball this Spring. The Braves are leading the Grapefruit League with 42 team homers. Among both leagues, the Braves are third in home runs. At one point this week, Atlanta had 10 homers in 22 innings. They have a team batting average of .288 (second among National League teams this Spring), a solid number given their number of strikeouts (216, second in the Grapefruit League). However, the strikeouts shouldn’t be enough to sink the Braves this season.
Justin Upton has been as good as promised this Spring for Atlanta. The left fielder has delivered on defense and provided torrid offense. He is leading the Braves with 18 RBIs, has crushed 5 homers and has a .305 batting average. On Monday, in that bizarre game for Kris Medlen when the Braves beat the Phillies 17-10, Upton had an incredible game that included 3 hits, 2 of them home runs, and a whopping 6 RBI in just 3 at-bats.
Upton’s presence in the lineup seems to prove beneficial for Freddie Freeman who, depending on his place in the lineup, is receiving pitches that he has crushed this Spring as well. Freddie’s 7 home runs this Spring have him tied for the lead in the Grapefruit League with Philly Domonic Brown. Freeman has a batting average of .348, with a slugging percentage of .712. Freddie trails only Gattis and Simmons in slugging percentage.
Each of the 4 weeks that exhibition games have resulted in a report here at BravesWire.com, Evan Gattis has received mention. His Spring has convinced everyone from the front office down to the average fan that the loss of McCann for the start of the season will not be a problem for the Braves. Gattis is hitting .388 with 5 homers this Spring and has proven himself behind the dish. His spot on the Opening Day roster seems a foregone conclusion, leaving whether or not he may get the start that day the only question. While Laird is the veteran and veterans do tend to get the chance at starting over a rookie like Gattis, Gattis has done everything in his power (and what considerable power that is) to show Fredi Gonzalez that he is ready. His bat is certainly a touch ahead of his glove, but with that kind of power, the Braves can take the chance that his defense is not quite as effective as that of Laird or McCann.
Today the Braves begin their final week of Spring Training with a game against the Nationals at 1:05 p.m.
Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.