Posted on: March 4, 2012 5:36 pm
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Is this any way to come back from a collapse?
The Braves, fresh off their mostly unnoticed September swoon (the Red Sox hogged most of the headlines), are off to a rough start in spring training. After being one-hit in the spring opener, two of their top pitching prospects got roughed up in an 18-3 defeat to the powerful Tigers, who hit nine home runs.
Julio Teheran, considered Atlanta's best pitching prospect and a candidate to make their excellent rotation, allowed six home runs in two innings on an exceedingly windy day. The wind was blowing hard from left field to right field, but two of the Tigers' home runs, one by Austin Jackson and one by Delmon Young, cut through the wind and went out in left. Prince Fielder hit his first homer as a Tiger, hitting the light tower high up in right field on another homer that would have gone out, wind or no wind.
"Tough day to pitch,'' Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "In the big picture, nobody got hurt and we got our work in.''
Gonzalez suggested four or five of the Tigers' homers might not have gone out on a normal day. But Gonzalez also noted that they were batting under the same conditions, and they hit no home runs (though the Braves' lineup consisted of kids and backups).
Another top Braves prospect, Randall Delgado, allowed four runs in the first inning. But the righthander Teheran definitely had the roughest day of anyone. Gonzalez said he didn't think it was necessary for him to speak to him to keep his spirits up, though pitching coach Roger McDowell will surely say a few words to see how he holds up. "There's no doubt in my mind it'll be fine,'' Gonzalez said. "These guys are pretty solid.''
It's been a rough spring all the way around for the Braves. It began when top starting pitcher Tommy Hanson suffered a concusssion in a driving mishap, hitting his head against the window after a blowup while on the way to camp. Hanson threw for five minutes today without incident, and will throw again before getting into a game.
Not too much should be read into spring games, especially ones where one team plays its regulars and the other its kids, but there are legitimate concerns about the health of some of the Braves pitchers. Tim Hudson, who's returning from back surgery, is expected back in early May, though it could be a bit sooner. Jair Jurrjens was out the last month last year with kneee toruble, but he is considered fine. The Braves do have terrific starting pitching depth, which they are going to need.