Most baseball fans look forward to a few key dates. They can spout off the date that pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training. They can tell you when Opening Day is and who their team will be playing. And, diehard fans know exactly when Spring Training exhibition games began. That date was yesterday. The Braves opened exhibition play against the Detroit Tigers.
Thursday’s game against the Tigers was manager Fredi Gonzalez’ first time to tinker with his offseason-improved lineup. We will surely see the same lineup regularly throughout the 2013 season:
|3-J. Upton (LF)|
|5-B. Upton (CF)|
The only changes we are likely to see, other than the lack of designated hitter in the National League, is a platoon situation at third base with Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson. Fredi has said he will give each a shot to earn the spot, but with Francisco’s limited options, a platoon is a good scenario for both players as they step into a position that had been filled for 19 seasons by the now retired Chipper Jones. Chris Johnson offers the added versatility of backing up Freddie Freeman at first base if needed.
While Spring Training games don’t necessarily mean much, it is a great time for the organization to gauge exactly what they have. For the Braves, it is a time to see how their new lineup will work and which players will best fit in their bullpen. Although it doesn’t mean much, the Braves had a pretty decent game despite losing it to the Tigers.
The linescore for yesterday’s game:
As is usually the case, the bats are a bit slower to come around in Spring Training than the pitching. With the exception of Ryan Butcher in the 8th inning, Atlanta’s arms seemed solid. Tim Hudson was sharp, a great sight for fans and the organization who didn’t have Hudson back from spine surgery in time for Spring Training in 2012, and Craig Kimbrel reminded us why his stuff makes him the best closer in baseball right now. Avilan, Gearrin, Martinez and Hughes all pitched well in limited work.
Something else that Spring Training games offer is an opportunity for the fans to get to know the young guys that are in the minors, guys who we often don’t see much of unless we live near a minor league park. Yesterday Braves fans heard the name Ramiro Pena for the first time in a game. He was signed to a minor league contract in the offseason. Parraz, Cunningham, Mejia and Pagnozzi aren’t exactly household names, but they have been around Atlanta’s organization for longer than Pena. An old name is back again, Jordan Schafer signed a contract with the Braves in the offseason and returned to their lineup yesterday. His role as of now is unknown, though he would offer a bench bat and a backup for centerfielder BJ Upton. Tyler Pastornicky and Chris Johnson were replacements in yesterday’s game. Pastornicky’s role will continue to be similar to what it was when he lost the everyday position last season–backup infielder. Finally, Joey Terdoslavich made a splash with his pinch hit homer in the 9th inning. Terdoslavich has had limited time to introduce himself to Braves fans, but that shouldn’t last long. His bat continues to improve and Spring Training is just the venue to showcase that.
Today the Braves visit the Yankees at Lake Buena Vista. The game gets underway at 1:05 p.m. (EST) and will be available with GameDay audio as well as on 680 AM, 93.7 FM and the Braves Radio Network. The first televised game for the Braves will be February 28th on the MLB Network.
Tara Rowe is an independent historian and beat writer for BravesWire.com. Follow Tara on Twitter @framethepitch.