The organization did not make any huge offseason additions, but instead worked to lock up its core of young players. Jason Heyward signed a two-year deal, Freddie Freeman received an eight-year extension, Craig Kimbrel was extended for four seasons, Julio Teheran got a six-year deal, and Andrelton Simmons will be around for at least seven more years.
Each of these players has been a big part of the team's success over the past couple of years and will certainly be valuable contributors in the future.
Meanwhile, the Braves did lose some veterans to free agency as Brian McCann and Tim Hudson each moved to greener pastures. However, there should be enough leadership on the roster to overcome these departures.
The only question is whether Atlanta can live up to expectations.
This all starts with a strong spring training as everyone looks to get into playing shape. Here is a look at a full schedule for the spring season with scores and a recap for each game.
|Wed, Feb. 26||Detroit Tigers||1:05 p.m.||Tigers win, 6-5|
|Thu, Feb. 27||Detroit Tigers||1:05 p.m.||Tigers win, 5-2|
|Fri, Feb. 28||Houston Astros||6:05 p.m.||Astros win, 7-5|
|Sat, March 1||Washington Nationals||1:05 p.m.||Nationals win, 16-15|
|Sun, March 2||Detroit Tigers||1:05 p.m.||Tie, 0-0|
|Sun, March 2||Houston Astros||1:05 p.m.||Astros win, 7-4|
|Mon, March 3||New York Mets||1:05 p.m.||Mets win, 6-2|
|Tue, March 4||Washington Nationals||1:05 p.m.||Braves win, 8-4|
|Wed, March 5||Philadelphia Phillies||1:05 p.m.||Tie, 2-2|
|Thu, March 6||Washington Nationals||6:05 p.m.||Braves win, 3-2|
|Fri, March 7||Boston Red Sox||1:05 p.m.||Red Sox win, 4-1|
|Sat, March 8||Washington Nationals||1:05 p.m.||Nationals win, 8-2|
|Sat, March 8||Miami Marlins||1:05 p.m.||Tie, 6-6|
|Sun, March 9||New York Mets||1:05 p.m.||Mets win, 8-2|
|Mon, March 10||Philadelphia Phillies||1:05 p.m.||Braves win, 8-1|
|Tue, March 11||Philadelphia Phillies||1:05 p.m.||Braves win, 9-1|
|Wed, March 12||Washington Nationals||1:05 p.m.||Braves win, 3-2|
|Wed, March 12||Miami Marlins||1:05 p.m.||Braves win, 3-1|
|Thu, March 13||St. Louis Cardinals||1:05 p.m.||Cardinals win, 11-0|
|Fri, March 14||Tampa Bay Rays||1:05 p.m.||Braves win, 6-1|
|Sat, March 15||St. Louis Cardinals||1:05 p.m.||Cardinals win, 6-2|
|Sun, March 16||New York Yankees||1:05 p.m.||Yankees win 7-4|
|Mon, March 17||Houston Astros||1:05 p.m.||Braves win, 4-0|
|Wed, March 19||New York Yankees||1:05 p.m.||Yankees win, 7-0|
|Thu, March 20||New York Mets||1:10 p.m.||Mets win, 7-6|
|Fri, March 21||Detroit Tigers||1:05 p.m.||Tigers Win, 3-0|
|Fri, March 21||Baltimore Orioles||1:05 p.m.||Orioles Win, 8-0|
|Sat, March 22||Boston Red Sox||1:05 p.m.||Braves Win, 6-3|
|Sun, March 23||New York Mets||1:05 p.m.||Braves Win, 4-1|
|Mon, March 24||Houston Astros||6:05 p.m.||Astros Win, 7-5|
|Tue, March 25||Detroit Tigers||1:05 p.m.||Braves win, 12-3|
|Wed, March 26||Miami Marlins||1:05 p.m.||Braves win, 9-2|
|Thu, March 27||Detroit Tigers||1:05 p.m.||Tigers win, 9-3|
|Sat, March 29||Braves Futures||1:05 p.m.||Braves Futures win, 13-4|
March 29: Braves Futures Destroy Pro Team, 13-4
After finishing spring training with a record of 12-18, thanks to being demolished 13-4 by the futures team on Saturday, the Braves will hope to play better once the regular season begins in April.
At least the future appears bright, though.
The futures squad was unstoppable in the final tuneup before the season begins, cranking out 16 hits and keeping the pro team's bats at bay with a solid display of pitching.
Jason Hursh pitched two scoreless innings to get things started right for the futures team, and he's a player to watch in the years to come. David Lee of The Augusta Chronicle elaborates:
There was a reason Jason Hursh got the start for the Future Stars against the big-league Braves. The right-hander shows polish and an advanced feel for what he does, and he attacked some notable Braves with confidence.
The Braves were able to generate 10 hits in total, but only one—a Gerald Laird double—was of the extra-bases variety.
Josh Elander provided the big blast of the afternoon, crushing a grand slam to key an eight-run seventh inning for the futures team.
March 27: Harang Falls Apart in Middle Innings and Braves Lose to Tigers 9-3
Five innings should have been enough for Aaron Harang on Thursday. The Braves starter gave up three runs in the fifth and gave up another two in the sixth before being chased by the Detroit Tigers bats.
Miguel Cabrera's three-run home run in the fifth was the big blow as it stoked Detroit to a 4-3 lead. Perhaps Harang simply needed more innings of work. He returned for the sixth inning as was greeted by run-scoring knocks from Alex Gonzalez and Tyler Collins.
On offense, the Braves got home runs from B.J. Upton and Jordan Schafer.
There shouldn't be a ton of alarm after Harang's rocky outing. The six earned runs only raised his spring ERA to 4.91. As a fourth or fifth starter, he still looks like a solid contributor for Atlanta in the upcoming season.
Despite the loss, with just four days remaining until opening day, the Braves still have to feel good about their team.
Atlanta will play its spring training finale on Saturday against its futures squad.
March 26: Bats Come Alive Late as Braves Defeat Marlins, 9-2
The Braves lineup got some help from unlikely sources as the team scored fours runs in the seventh inning and three in the eighth to secure a blowout victory against the Marlins.
Derrick Mitchell gave a good impression late in camp with four RBI in the win after entering for Jason Heyward. Tyler Pastornicky also had a strong day batting in the No. 2 hole, via David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Pastornicky 2-out RBI single in #Braves 4-run 7th, he has two hits, a walk and three RBIs today— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) March 26, 2014
Meanwhile, Julio Teheran was impressive on the mound. The starter worked around seven hits to give up just two runs in six innings. He also had nine strikeouts to go with just one walk on the day.
Atahualpa Severino, Jordan Walden and David Carpenter then finished off the game with three scoreless innings in a row. This was an impressive all-around effort for the Braves against a division rival, something that has to have the fans excited this close to opening day.
March 25: Jason Heyward's Mammoth Blast Helps Lead Braves Past Tigers, 12-3
When Jason Heyward stepped up to the plate in the sixth inning, there was no one on base and the Braves were already winning 5-2. Towards the end of spring, that set up for what is about as meaningless a plate appearance as Heyward will have all year.
It instantly became noteworthy. Heyward unleashed a blast that has the Braves twitter account wondering if it will land by opening day:
Torii Hunter, manning right field for the Tigers, didn't flinch or even pretend like he had a shot to catch the blast.
Atlanta's offense was on point this day. It roughed up Detroit starter Rick Porcello for six earned runs in his six innings. Former Tigers catcher Gerald Laird also homered off of Porcello with a two-run blast in the sixth.
Ervin Santana picked up his first win of the spring. Although he pitched just three innings as he builds up his arm strength. He allowed two runs, both earned, and had one strike out.
March 24: David Hale Roughed Up as Astros Prevail, 7-5
With Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy lost for the season, Mike Minor and Gavin Floyd on the disabled list and Ervin Santana not ready for opening week, David Hale is a projected starter at the back of the Braves' rotation, at least for early April.
But even with the diminished depth, the 26-year-old won't want to have many more starts like this.
Hale gave up six earned runs in 5.1 innings against the Houston Astros on Monday, surrendering 12 hits while walking two and striking out four. He was saddled with the loss, dropping him to 0-3 with a 6.62 ERA in five spring starts.
The Braves provided some early run support. Chris Johnson hit a three-run blast in the first inning off former teammate Dallas Keuchel, and Justin Upton followed with a solo shot to complete the back-to-back feat.
A 4-0 lead quickly slipped away, though, as Hale gave up three in the fourth, two in the fifth and another in the sixth before being yanked for Cory Gearrin.
Freddie Freeman added another run for the Braves with the team's third homer of the game, but the 'Stros bullpen did enough to secure the win.
With home runs from Johnson, Upton and Freeman, it's quite clear the heart of Atlanta's lineup is ready for the season to start.
The outlook of the starting rotation, on the other hand, isn't nearly as bright.
March 23: Big Names Show Up to Take Down Mets, 4-1
Freddy Garcia has experienced an up-and-down spring training season, but Sunday's start showed the upside for the veteran starter.
The 37-year-old carved up the New York Mets in the start, giving up just one unearned run on two hits, four strikeouts and one walk through 5.1 innings pitched. While he still carries a 4.76 ERA through his spring training, a stellar outing late in the spring could help him earning one of the coveted rotation spots.
Kevin McAlphin of 680 The Fan gave a full breakdown of Garcia's outing:
Freddy Garcia done after 5.1 IP. He allows 1 unearned run on 2 hits with 4 strikeouts. Faced 20 batters. 83 pitches/52 strikes. #Braves— Kevin McAlpin (@KevinMcAlpin) March 23, 2014
As for the offense, not much was produced with four runs on the board, but the big bats came to life against the division-rival Mets.
Justin Upton crushed a home run, Freddie Freeman registered another extra-base hit and B.J. Upton continued to show improvement from last season with a 2-for-3 day at the plate.
B.J. Upton registered a triple, which was his first of the spring, while his brother smashed his second four-bagger in the Grapefruit League. Craig Kimbrel also finished off the strong pitching effort from the Braves with a dominant final frame for the save.
March 22: Alex Wood Continues Hot Spring in 6-3 Win Over Boston
Alex Wood has been stellar this spring, and he lowered his already sparkling ERA after allowing just one run over six innings to the Red Sox. His ERA now sits at 0.45.
Yunesky Maya was not as effective in two innings of relief, allowing two runs on three hits to let Boston back into the game. Cory Gearrin posted a scoreless ninth inning to record the save.
At the plate, the Braves roughed up Boston starter John Lackey early and often. They got to him for five runs in 4.2 innings, highlighted by home runs from Andrelton Simmons and Dan Uggla. It was Simmons' first and Uggla's fourth big flies of the spring.
Freddie Freeman appears to be in mid-season form. The slugger was 4-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI before giving way to Ernesto Mejia at first. Mejia was 1-for-1 at the plate in his stead.
The Braves have to like where their team is with just a few games remaining before the start of the regular season.
March 21: Teheran Gets Tuned Up in 3-0 Loss to Tigers
No official Opening Day starter announcement has been made by Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez just yet, but Julio Teheran has been the odds-on-favorite to earn the honor all spring long. On Friday, the right-hander certainly looked the part, with a strong outing in a 3-0 split-squad loss to Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers.
Teheran completed six innings, allowing two earned runs on two hits and a walk while striking out four. In the process, he raised his spring ERA to 1.42.
But the Tigers got to Teheran in the fourth inning, when he issued a leadoff walk before Eziquiel Carrera delivered an RBI double for Detroit. A Teheran wild pitch later in the inning helped set up a Victor Martinez RBI groundout, but the Braves' ace sounded happy with his outing, per Mark Bowman of MLB.com.
"I felt good," Teheran said. "It was just one bad inning and a couple of mistakes that I made. After that, I felt good. I was getting stronger."
Meanwhile, the offense recorded eight hits but was shutout through five innings by Verlander before staying silent all afternoon.
March 21: O's Shut Out Braves, 8-0, In Split-Squad Affair
When looking at the grand total for both of Atlanta's split-squad spring training games on Friday, it wasn't pretty. Things were particularly bad in the tilt with the Baltimore Orioles, as the Braves were shutout, 8-0.
At least it was a lovely day in Sarasota, Fla., at the ballpark.
The Braves also received another encouraging performance from 25-year-old righty Gus Schlosser, who is trying to make the team as a long relief man or spot starter. After giving up a first-inning sacrifice fly to Chris Davis, Schlosser would settle down. In all, he finished four innings of work, giving up the run on one hit while striking out three, bringing his spring ERA to 2.03.
According to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Schlosser may have pitched his way to the opening day roster this spring.
But the Braves' bullpen imploded in the eighth inning, when Anthony Varvaro and Ryne Harper combined to give up seven runs to make it a blowout. Offensively, regulars Freddie Freeman, Chris Johnson and Andrelton Simmons went a combined 2-of-9 at the plate.
March 20: Mets beat Braves, 7-6
Ervin Santana made his first start for the Braves on Thursday, as the team's fans eagerly looked on. That was about the extent of the good news for the Braves, however, as they fell to the Mets, 7-6.
Anthony Recker's three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth gave the Mets the win. That spoiled solid afternoons from Jason Heyward (one hit, one walk, one run). B.J. Upton (two hits and an RBI) and Justin Upton (two hits, two RBI) and the debut of Santana, who gave up a run on two hits in two innings of work.
Mark Bowman of MLB.com has more on Santana's first start with Atlanta:
Ervin Santanta after his first start: "It’s the same baseball. Nothing has changed. It’s just a little bit later."— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) March 20, 2014
A National League scout said Ervin Santana's fastball hit 95 mph and touched 94 multiple times. #Braves— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) March 20, 2014
The Braves appeared to have this one in the bag after pushing across three runs in the top of the seventh behind a Ramiro Pena RBI single and Justin Upton's two-run double. They'd add another insurance run in the top of the ninth, but Eric Pfisterer couldn't earn the save, giving up two hits and Recker's three-run blast.
March 19: New York Yankees Beat Braves, 7-0
The Atlanta Braves couldn't figure out Ivan Nova, and as a result, they lost 7-0 to the New York Yankees. The 27-year-old got the win after pitching 6.1 innings of two-hit ball. He struck out five and walked none.
Atlanta simply couldn't get anything going offensively.
Andrelton Simmons led off the bottom of the third with a single, but Steven Lerud struck out, David Hale sacrificed Simmons to second and then Jason Heyward popped up to first to end the inning.
Ryan Doumit doubled with one out in the bottom of the sixth, but Nova got out of the jam, with Heyward grounding out and B.J. Upton flying out to center.
The Braves couldn't get a similar performance from their starting pitcher, as David Hale went 4.1 innings, giving up three earned runs on five hits.
Fans can at least look forward to Ervin Santana's imminent arrival. Atlanta's newest acquisition will start on Thursday against the New York Mets, per ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin:
March 17: Braves Beat Houston Astros 4-0 in 5 Innings
It was a rain-shortened affair in Kissimmee between the Braves and Astros, with the highlight—of course—being Dan Uggla.
Uggla clobbered a home run in the second inning Monday, but was far from finished as he got to the plate the very next inning and notched a two-run triple to put the Braves up 4-0.
Grant McAuley of 929 The Game weighed in with Uggla's updated spring statistics:
After going 2-for-2 (HR, 3B, 3RBI) today, #Braves 2B Dan Uggla has .273/.432/.606 line with 3 HR & 10 RBI (9BB/13K) in 15 games this Spring.— Grant McAuley (@grantmcauley) March 17, 2014
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez chimed in about Uggla's day and his steady improvement as spring training nears its end, according to Carroll Rogers of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
“The ball he hit to right center field that was about as good of a pass as I’ve seen him take in a long time,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “And that ball stayed on the line, stayed true and he hit it hard. So that’s a really good sign.”
Uggla was not alone in the spotlight thanks to starting pitcher Alex Wood. He remained on the mound for the duration of the game and allowed two hits and struck out six.
March 16: New York Yankees defeat Braves, 7-4
The Braves held a 3-1 lead heading into the bottom of the fifth inning. In that frame, the Yankees exploded with six runs. Five of them came off Atahualpa Severino as he took the loss.
Severino's implosion wasted a fairly solid four-inning outing from starter Julio Teheran. He pitched four innings and allowed just one run while striking out five.
Severino's ERA increased to a whopping 20.77 on the spring.
The Upton brothers supplied most of the team's offense. Justin Upton homered and B.J. Upton drove in another run. Braves Paul talks about the great spring B.J. is having for Atlanta:
Suddenly, BJ Upton is batting .306 this spring. Also has four steals. #Braves— Braves Paul (@Braves_Paul) March 16, 2014
The game was somewhat of a homecoming for former Brave Brian McCann. He signed with the New York Yankees during the offseason.
Teheran said it was emotional facing his former battery mate, but as he said per Kevin McAlpin of Braves Radio Net, he had some success:
Teheran (on facing Brian McCann): "it was a little emotional. I tried to strike him out, and thats what I did" #Braves— Kevin McAlpin (@KevinMcAlpin) March 16, 2014
The exhibition season hasn't been great for Atlanta. The team has lost three of its last four and struggled to find any momentum.
March 15: St. Louis Cardinals defeat Braves, 6-2
The St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Atlanta braves by a score of 6-2 on Saturday.
St. Louis broke this game open in the third inning when the team scored three runs, but this was the story of the starting pitchers. Cardinals’ starter Joe Kelly allowed only one run in 5.1 innings of work, while Gus Schlosser allowed two earned runs in four innings.
Each team managed to add a run in the fifth inning, but St. Louis added more in the sixth via a two-run single from Kelly. The Braves also added a run from Ernesto Mejia in the bottom of the seventh.
This was the Cardinals’ second win over Atlanta in the last three games.
March 14: Braves beat Rays, 6-1
The Braves used a four-run eighth inning to pull away from the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday at Champion Stadium. Ernesto Mejia provided the fireworks with a pinch-hit two-run homer off Samm Runion to open the game up in that decisive inning.
Chris Johnson had a nice day at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a double off Rays starter Chris Archer.
Right-hander David Hale, who could be in the mix for a starting job out of spring training with Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen facing Tommy John surgery, started today and went four solid innings with four hits, one run, one walk and three strikeouts.
Closer Craig Kimbrel pitched the fifth inning, allowing one hit and one walk. He lowered his spring ERA to 1.50.
March 13: Cardinals Destroy Braves, 11-0
Freddy Garcia was roughed up in his start for the Braves on Thursday. The veteran right-hander pitched four innings and allowed four runs, three earned, on six hits.
This put the Braves in an immediate hole, and it was one they never even pretended to climb out of.
St. Louis starter Lance Lynn had a lot to do with that. In a stretch through the second to fourth inning, Lynn struck out eight batters in a row.
He wound up going four innings with a lone hit being the only thing that kept him from a perfect outing.
The Braves didn't have much more success against any of the other pitchers they faced on the day. Atlanta finished with just three hits.
March 12: Elmer Reyes' Late Heroics Lift Braves Past Nationals, 3-2
In a pitching duel on Wednesday, the Braves took advantage of the ninth inning, scoring a walkoff single to defeat the Nationals by a score of 3-2.
The game did not start in stellar fashion for Atlanta, as a wild pitch from Alex Wood brought in a run for Washington. Wood was able to right the ship, pitching four innings, allowing four hits and striking out two batters. His lone run allowed was due to his early wild pitch.
The Braves' bats woke up in the third inning. Freddie Freeman absolutely demolished a two-run homer to center, scoring Jason Heyward.
That's likely it for Chris Young vs. Braves. 3 innings, 2 runs on 3 hits. Freddie Freeman hit a 2-run shot into the camera well in center.— James Wagner (@JamesWagnerWP) March 12, 2014
After three scoreless innings, Washington tied the game in the eighth with a Caleb Ramsey RBI single off of Shae Simmons.
However, the tie was short lived. Elmer Reyes lined a single to left in the bottom of the ninth to score Jose Peraza, effectively winning the game.
Freddie Freeman had the hot bat of the game, connecting on two hits on three at bats, scoring one run and netting two RBI's for a batting average of .414.
March 11: Julio Teheran Perfect for Four as Braves Beat Phillies, 9-1
Dan Uggla belted a solo home run in the fifth inning to break a scoreless tie, and he did it on his 33rd birthday.
Despite the fact it was his special day, Julio Teheran had the nerve to upstage him. I'm sure Uggla and Braves fans everywhere were delighted this happened.
In the past few days, the Braves have watched starting pitcher Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy leave starts early with injuries. Teheran now is in line to be the starter on Opening Day. He pitched like it on Tuesday.
Over four innings of work, the 23-year-old did not allow a run or hit or surrender a walk. He also added in three strikeouts for good measure.
Meanwhile, the Braves' offense took over in the sixth.
Edward Salcedo belted a two-run home run and Jordan Schafer produced a two-run triple, as the Braves opened up a commanding lead.
Uggla had two hits on the day, including his second home run of the spring, to raise his spring average to .318. Jason Heyward also had two hits in his two at-bats, and he is now hitting .379 for the spring.
March 10: Braves Dominate Phillies, Win 8-1
The Braves ended their losing streak on March 10 after defeating the Philadelphia Phillies by a score of 8-1. The combination of stellar pitching and hot bats allowed Atlanta to cruise to an easy victory.
Brandon Beachy notched the win after pitching two innings, allowing just one hit and striking out one batter. Jason Hursh struggled a bit over his two innings, allowing the only Phillies run. He struck out two batters, but allowed two hits and walked two as well.
Atlanta's bats were hot on Monday; however, as the Braves gave Cliff Lee a tough time, scoring two runs over Lee's 3.2 innings pitched.
Jason Heyward started things off with a bang, homering to right field in the first inning. Dan Uggla followed him up with his own home run in the fourth.
The Braves poured it on in the seventh inning, as Freddie Freeman, Chris Johnson and Tommy La Stella combined to notch five RBI's. Reid Brignac closed out the scoring in the eighth inning with an RBI single.
Atlanta's top players were on point on Monday, and they showed what this team is capable of when the stars align. It's good to see both pitching and batting beginning to take shape at this point in spring training.
March 9: Braves Continue to Struggle, Lose 8-2 to Mets
The Braves are the defending NL East champions and are expected to battle with Washington for a repeat performance. The spring is about preparing for that—not actually winning games. That said, no one within the Atlanta organization can be happy about its slow start this month.
Kevin Plawecki and Matt den Dekker each drove in two runs as part of a seven-run eighth inning, as the Mets earned a 8-2 victory over Atlanta on Sunday. New York is now 2-0 against its division rival this spring, a streak the Braves hope is fluke mostly related to the minor-league talent adorning the field.
The loss drops the Braves to 2-9 this spring, with an 0-6 record when viewed as the "away" team. The Mets' Twitter feed reported a record crowd at Tradition Field, as fans flocked to Port St Lucie for a Sunday matinee:
A new Tradition Field attendance record today! 7,678!!! #LGM— New York Mets (@Mets) March 9, 2014
Though it took a little while for the Mets' offense to get going, they walked away mostly happy. Zack Wheeler pitched three innings of scoreless ball, forcing the Braves to strand two in the second inning. Wheeler, 23, is viewed as New York's great hope for this season in the rotation, with Matt Harvey still recovering from Tommy John surgery.
The Mets held a 1-0 lead thanks to a Brandon Allen RBI single into the seventh inning, when Atlanta got back into the game for roughly 15 seconds. Ramiro Pena's RBI double knotted up the game at 1-1, a score that lasted exactly 1.5 innings before the Mets' dominant eighth.
To add insult to a frustrating loss, the Braves may also have lost starter Kris Medlen to an arm injury. Medlen left the game early with what the team is currently describing as a right forearm strain. The 28-year-old righty previously underwent Tommy John surgery in 2010 and had finally come into his own the past two seasons.
It's safe to say the Braves are far more concerned about the physician's prognosis for Medlen than they are a meaningless March loss. That said, the troubles are starting to pile up.
March 8: Braves Tie Marlins (6-6), Outgunned by Nationals, 8-2
Atlanta left Saturday without a win in their two split-squad games. The day started poorly with a disappointing outing against the Washington Nationals. The Nats’ lineup dominated the Braves’ pitchers, scoring eight runs against a host of Atlanta arms.
It didn’t get much better after that, as the Braves tied the Marlins later in the day. Freddy Garcia is one of the candidates for the job of fifth starter, but he’ll have to hope that his manager doesn’t watch his performance against Miami.
Garcia had been perfect to start the spring, helping his cause for the starting job. He was no longer perfect after Saturday:
Well, there goes Freddy Garcia's perfect spring. Reed Johnson's one out single is the first base runner Garcia's allowed in 5.1 IP. #Braves— Kevin McAlpin (@KevinMcAlpin) March 8, 2014
Freddy Garcia struggling with his command in the third inning. He's loaded the bases with walks to the first three batters. #Braves— Kevin McAlpin (@KevinMcAlpin) March 8, 2014
The pitcher looked distracted on the mound. As it turns out, he had a good reason to be:
#Braves pitcher Freddy Garcia left ballpark after coming out of game, flew back to Miami where his wife is in labor.— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) March 8, 2014
Hopefully this performance was an aberration and Garcia regains the form from earlier in the spring.
The pitching wasn’t great, but the offense was another story—particularly Jason Heyward, who continued his spectacular form:
Jason Heyward now 3-for-3 on the afternoon. He's hit safely in each of his last 5 ABs and 6 of his last 7. #Braves— Kevin McAlpin (@KevinMcAlpin) March 8, 2014
Trailing 6-2 in the fourth inning, the Braves offense found its rhythm and scored in the fourth, eighth and ninth innings to tie up the game, racking up 18 hits in the process.
#Braves have more ties (3) than wins (2) in 13 spring training games. They have the record of a bad hockey team: 2-8-3— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) March 8, 2014
March 7: Braves Fall to Defending Champions, 4-1
After five scoreless innings for both teams, Jason Heyward opened the scoring with a solo home run in the top of the sixth. It was the continuation of a strong spring training for Heyward, as he went 2-for-3 on the day and hit his second homer of the month.
Heyward had 2 of #Braves' 4 hits today, a single and a long homer, his second of spring— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) March 7, 2014
Unfortunately for the Braves, that was their only run of the day, while the Red Sox tied the game in the same inning and then scored three runs off right-hander Cody Martin in the seventh to take the victory.
#Braves reliever Cody Martin has allowed eight hits, five runs and two walks in 2-2/3 innings over three appearances.— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) March 7, 2014
The bright spot for Atlanta was the performance of pitcher Alex Wood—who’s fighting for the job of fifth starter. The left-hander gave up two hits and struck out two batters in three scoreless innings.
#Braves Wood threw 28 strikes in 39 pitches in his 3 scoreless innings (2 H, 0 BB, 2 K)— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) March 7, 2014
Manager Fredi Gonzalez only had good things to say about Wood’s outing to the Associated Press after the game (h/t to ESPN.com):
Woody was outstanding. We think really high of him. He gets excited, and he competes. He's a bulldog on the mound ... He's a guy that likes to compete. He pounds the strike zone and he just keeps giving you good outings after good outings.
If the southpaw slinger can build on this impressive performance, Wood stands a great chance of winning the starting job.
March 6: Braves Beat Nats, 3-2
After giving up two runs in the ninth inning, the Braves were able to pull out a win on a Braeden Schlehuber walk-off single.
There was not a lot of offense for the Braves on Thursday as Todd Cunningham came through with the only RBI in the first eight innings on a bases-loaded single in the sixth inning. The other run for Atlanta came on the next batter when Dan Uggla scored on a Matt Lipka double play.
However, the lineup came through when needed in the ninth inning on a walk, error, wild pitch and finally a single to bring home Joey Terdoslavich.
Meanwhile, the pitching staff was something Atlanta to be excited about. Julio Teheran had a solid outing to start the game with three scoreless innings to keep his ERA in the spring at 0.00. He gave up four hits and walked one batter, but he also had four strikeouts in a strong effort.
Luis Avilan, Craig Kimbrel, Jordan Walden, Cory Gearrin and Yunesky Maya all followed that up with a scoreless inning apiece, each giving up exactly one hit. However, Lay Batista could not keep it going in the ninth inning and blew the save with two runs allowed in the ninth.
Still, Batista ended up earning the win despite the poor effort thanks to the late-game heroics of Schlehuber.
March 5: Braves and Phillies End in 2-2 Tie
Atlanta escaped with a 2-2 draw with the Phillies on Wednesday. The Phillies' defense cost them the win in the eighth inning.
A botched rundown and errant throw allowed the tying run to score. The game was called at the end of nine innings.
Atlanta's pitching was solid throughout. The staff allowed just five hits and struck out seven. In his second spring start, Brandon Beachy threw three scoreless and hitless innings.
Per Todd Molecki of MLB.com, Beachy talked about feeling more comfortable on the mound in his second start. He said:
"[I] felt better, more comfortable out there. Turned it up a little bit more while working on stuff. I was able to make some better pitches than the last time out. ... A lot better than last time out. Not that the results matter, but I felt better."
The star at the plate was Steven Lerud. The former Phillie went 3-for-3 and raised his batting average this spring to .714.
The 30-year-old catcher doesn't have much of a shot to find at-bats in the regular season with Evan Gattis, Ryan Doumit and Gerald Laird on board. But he could be grabbing the attention of another club this spring.
March 4: Braves Beat Nationals; 8-4
Atlanta finally got its first win of the Grapefruit League season with an 8-4 win over the Nationals. The Braves were down 4-2 at the seventh-inning stretch, but they scored two in the seventh and four in the eighth to come away with a win.
The go-ahead runs in the eighth inning came thanks to an interesting managerial decision by Washington's Matt Williams. The inning started with two walks and a single to load the bases, although a line out to the shortstop made it possible for the Nationals to get out of the inning.
Unfortunately, things took a turn for the worst for the road team, described by David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Matt Williams bringing RF in to play five infielders in on Gosselin with one out, bases loaded.....— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) March 4, 2014
And Gosselin foils it, triple to an empty right field Braves up 7-4 and Williams might not wanna try that again— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) March 4, 2014
Philip Gosselin's hit was the biggest of the day for Atlanta but he was not the only one who was solid at the plate. Justin Upton got hits in his only two at bats, while Andrelton Simmons went 2-for-3 with two RBI.
Additionally, Kris Medlen was impressive on the mound, as shown by these stats courtesy of Kevin McAlpin of Braves Radio Net:
Kris Medlen done after 3 shutout innings. He walked a batter and allowed 1 hit. Threw 39 pitches/25 strikes. #Braves— Kevin McAlpin (@KevinMcAlpin) March 4, 2014
Jason Hursh ended the day with two scoreless innings to earn the win in the first victory of Spring Training for the Braves.
March 3: Mets Drop Braves, 6-2
While it was a poor day at the plate for the Braves' offense, one non-roster invitee made a good impression on the mound.
Freddy Garcia toed the rubber for the start and was masterful. While he doesn't have the same velocity he once did, Garcia has made an impression thus far, according to David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
In his three starts with Atlanta last season, Garcia went 1-2 in 27.1 innings with a 1.65 ERA and 20 strikeouts to just five walks.
With an already stacked rotation that includes Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Julio Teheran, the likelihood of Garcia earning a spot in the rotation looked slim coming into spring training. But with the results that he's posted thus far, Garcia could be a darkhorse candidate to earn the fifth starter role.
Following Garcia, the bullpen held up pretty well up until the final frame. Throughout the first eight innings, just one run was allowed by Ryan Buchter. With a 12.00 ERA thus far in the spring, Mark Bowman of Braves.com said his control could cost him a spot on the Opening Day roster:
Buchter's struggles on the mound were erased by a two-run eighth inning, but the bullpen came unraveled in the ninth to remain winless throughout the spring. Atahualpa Severino took the loss after coming in for just 1/3 of an inning and giving up five runs on five hits.
Adam Rubin of ESPN gave a play-by-play of the final run for the New York Mets as the Braves dropped to 0-6-1 in the Grapefruit League:
While there hasn't been much room for optimism with Jason Heyward, Justin Upton, B.J. Upton and Evan Gattis all still hitting less than .200 in Florida, it's still just the spring. Less than a month remains for the spring as the Braves will look to hit their stride before the season begins.
March 2: Tigers Tie Braves, 0-0; Astros Beat Braves, 7-4
Atlanta played its first split-squad doubleheader, earning a tie against the Tigers and falling to the Astros to move their spring record to 0-4-1.
Alex Wood provided the most encouraging sign of the day, hurling two scoreless innings against Detroit in his first Grapefruit League start. Giving up three singles, Wood avoided significant contact throughout the outing, and used his fastball to punch out a pair, as Kevin McAlpin of Braves Radio Net highlights:
Alex Wood with a pair of strikeouts in two scoreless innings. Kinsler on a 93mph heater; Lennerton on a 94mph fastball. #Braves— Kevin McAlpin (@KevinMcAlpin) March 2, 2014
Wood will compete for a spot in the Braves' young rotation, as he currently looks like the front-runner for the fifth starter slot. Following Wood, bullpen piece Luis Avilan also pitched a three-up, three-down inning, striking out one.
While there was not much offense to speak of in that game, the Braves slugged out 11 hits against Houston but still fell to the Astros. Jason Heyward tallied a hit and scored a run, while outfielder Brandon Boggs had two RBI on a seventh-inning single. Jordan Schafer, Cedric Hunter and Tommy La Stella all notched two hits.
In his first start of the spring, David Hale went for two innings, conceding two runs on a pair of hits, though he did strike out three. While Hale seems unlikely to earn a rotation spot, his impressive performance in a September call-up last season could earn him a look later this year, per Double-A Mississippi Braves announcer Kyle Tait:
Apart from David Bromberg, who got the final two outs of the game for Atlanta, every Braves pitcher allowed at least one earned run.
It's been a rough spring for the Braves, and while records are irrelevant in spring training, Atlanta will seek to get off the schneid Monday against the NL East rival New York Mets.
March 1: Nationals Beat Braves, 16-15
As if things could not get any worse, the Braves dropped a fourth-straight game to open spring training thanks to a 16-15 loss in a slugfest against the Washington Nationals.
Despite five errors from Washington and a combined 31 runs on 37 hits, the Braves scored just one run in the final six frames. A nine-run fifth was simply not enough as Washington powered its way to five runs in both the fifth and sixth frames to pull ahead for good.
Matt Lipka was the star of the show for Atlanta with his four RBI, and both he and Tommy La Stella went 3-for-6 on the productive day.
A quote from Washington's Jordan Zimmerman after the game summed up the day best, as Atlanta's Freddie Freeman seemed simply unprepared, according to the Associated Press via ESPN:
"He kind of looked at me like, `Really? We're starting this already?" Zimmermann said. "It got to 3-2 and I figured it was the last thing he was looking for. I threw a pretty good one. It was up a little bit, but he rolled it over I got a groundball, so it was good."
The Braves get another shot at Detroit on March 2 to avenge their two losses to start spring training and get things back on track.
Feb. 28: Astros Beat Braves, 7-5
Make it three in a row for the Atlanta Braves, as they dropped their third straight game this spring, with a 7-5 loss to the Houston Astros.
Things started off so well for the Braves, too. Atlanta loaded the bases after two walks and a single from Tommy La Stella. With two outs, Dan Uggla walked, bringing in Jason Heyward.
In the second inning, things unraveled.
Brandon Beachy, who got the start, surrendered two runs on a bases-loaded single by Dexter Fowler. Beachy would be done after 1.2 innings after he reached his pitch limit, per MLB.com's Mark Bowman:
Beachy exits after reaching his pitch limit w/ two outs in the second. Stranded two in the first. Allowed a two-run single in the second.— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) February 28, 2014
Beachy stuck with his plan to moderate his effort through the early portion of the GL season. FB sat 88-91— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) February 28, 2014
Jordan Walden and J.R. Graham each gave up two runs apiece in the fourth and fifth innings, undoing the Braves offense adding a run each in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings and making it a 6-4 ballgame.
Atlanta got to within a run after Todd Cunningham homered to start the bottom of the eighth inning. Houston added an insurance run in the top of the ninth to seal the victory.
Walden would get the loss, and Matt Albers earned the win, pitching one inning and giving up one run. Funny enough, Albers was also credited with a blown save, as he allowed the Braves to tie the game 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth. He exited the game after getting hit by a liner off the bat of Freddie Freeman, per the Houston Astros:
Albers is knocked over after being struck by a hard-hit ball off the bat of Freddie Freeman. Albers walks off field unassisted.— Houston Astros (@astros) March 1, 2014
Cunningham finished 2-for-2, accounting for two runs. Freeman also finished 2-for-2, doubling in driving in a run on a single in the bottom of the fourth.
Feb. 27: Tigers Beat Braves, 5-2
For the second day in a row, the Detroit Tigers were able to come away with a win over the Braves, this time by a score of 5-2.
Detroit took the lead with two runs in the fifth off Wirfin Obispo, who took the loss. Two more runs off Cody Martin in the bottom of the eighth ruined any comeback bid for the road squad.
Kris Medlen got the start for Atlanta, although he did not have the outing he was hoping for. The pitcher only gave up one run in his two innings, but he also allowed two hits, one walk and a wild pitch. The run came on an RBI ground out by Miguel Cabrera, a matchup that Medlen admittedly did not like, via Mark Bowman of MLB.com:
Medlen: "It’s not a lot of fun trying to challenge Miguel Cabrera to a fastball-hitting contest when you don’t really have a fastball."— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) February 27, 2014
Meanwhile, the Braves mostly struggled offensively, although they did get one big play from Jason Heyward:
Heyward's HR off Below is a long left-vs.-left drive to righ thtat lands on roof of enclosed batting cages.— Freep Tigers (@freeptigers) February 27, 2014
The homer came against the lefty Duane Below, a good sign considering the outfielder hit only three home runs against southpaws last season.
Ryan Doumit also had a solid day at the plate, going 2-for-3 including an RBI triple. Unfortunately, the rest of the lineup was held in check as the team managed only four hits in a losing effort.
Feb. 26: Tigers Beat Braves, 6-5
The Detroit Tigers scored two runs in the top of the ninth to win a sloppy 6-5 game against the Braves. There were seven total errors in the contest, but the Tigers were able to come out on top.
Dan Uggla started off the scoring with a two-out RBI single in the second inning. Considering the second baseman went just 5-for-44 in those situations last season, this was certainly a welcoming sight. Of course, Braves announcer Jim Powell might have gone over the top:
Still, he went 2-for-2 on the day before coming out. Ernesto Mejia is the only other Atlanta player with two hits, although his came in relief.
The Braves should also be happy with the pitching performance of starter Freddy Garcia, who pitched two perfect innings to start off his spring. He also added two strikeouts in the process while having a smart game plan, via David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
#Braves Garcia said his goals this early were simple: "Make pitches, get people out. I need to pitch good to make this team."— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) February 26, 2014
However, it was not all great for Atlanta. Daniel Rodriguez gave up two runs to give up the lead in the sixth inning, while Shae Simmons blew a save with a one-run lead in the ninth. While these poor performances will not have a big effect on the regular season, it is clear that these young prospects are not quite ready to contribute consistently.
Atlanta then had a chance to come back in the bottom of the ninth, but the rain stopped a possible rally:
It is absolutely pouring and the umps stop the game. #Braves have tying run on 1st with 2 out in 9th trailing 6-5— Kevin McAlpin (@KevinMcAlpin) February 26, 2014
Thankfully it was just spring training, so the score really does not matter too much and the umpires decided to end the game. Despite the loss, this was a strong start to the 2014 spring training season.
Pre-Spring Training Prediction for 2014 Season
The first thing most will notice with the Braves roster is a deep rotation of young talent. The staff led the majors with a 3.18 ERA thanks mostly to the trio of Mike Minor, Kris Medlen and Julio Teheran.
While none of these players is a shutdown ace in the mold of Clayton Kershaw, they are among the most consistent pitchers in baseball, each finishing with a 3.21 ERA or better. The rotation as a whole finished second in the majors with 102 quality starts, always giving the squad a chance to win.
Add in a healthy Brandon Beachy and some combination of Alex Wood, David Hale and Freddy Garcia, and this rotation is expected to once again be one of the best in the majors.
Teammate Ryan Doumit might have said it best, via Mark Bowman of MLB.com:
From the naked eye, [none of the starters] really blows you away with eye-popping stuff. But, at the end of the day, you look at the numbers at the end of the season and you know they are guys who know how to pitch. [They're guys who] are comfortable [with] more than two pitches. They've got three or four quality pitches that they can throw in any count.
Of course, this unit is not as good as the bullpen, led by closer Craig Kimbrel. Anthony Varvaro, Jordan Walden, Luis Avilan and a healthy Jonny Venters should also make it tough for anyone to score upon them late in games.
The biggest question mark for this squad comes with the offense, which has the potential to also be among the best in the league.
Power hitters like Dan Uggla, Justin Upton, B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward create an intimidating lineup that can hit a home run at any point. However, only Freddie Freeman and Chris Johnson get on base with any consistency, which leads to extended scoring droughts when the power goes away.
Still, the pitching and depth of hitting talent should be enough for this team to at least reach the playoffs.
Based on talent alone, the Braves will win the NL East and contend for a championship. The only thing that could hold it back is more inconsistent hitting or injuries to key players.
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