PEARL, Miss. — Joe Terdoslavich hopes he doesn’t have to come back to Trustmark Park.
“Unless we do this again in the future sometime,” he said.
It’s not because Terdoslavich doesn’t enjoy the Double-A Braves’ park. He’s just one of several promising minor leaguers ready to make Turner Field a permanent home. Terdoslavich was one of 23 Braves prospects taking on the parent club Saturday, in Atlanta’s final exhibition before Monday’s opener against Philadelphia.
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Atlanta’s Braves beat the franchise’s Future Stars 10-0, behind a long-ball display that fans expect to see all season. Atlanta got back-to-back homers from Dan Uggla and Chris Johnson in the first inning and a blast from newcomer Evan Gattis that cleared the outfield seating in left field in the seventh.
Future Stars manager Bobby Cox said his minor leaguers got plenty from the experience, especially a roster full of promising pitchers watching Mike Minor allow two hits before retiring 11 straight.
“It’s always good to watch major league pitchers pitch,” Cox said. “Our guys were eyeballing him. That’s how you learn. Little bitty steps every year.”
Terdoslavich hit .395 in the spring with a home run and eight RBI, while demonstrating defensive versatility. But Jordan Schafer will likely take Atlanta’s final backup outfield spot. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez has previously said he wouldn’t hesitate to call Terdoslavich back up if he was needed in the outfield or first base.
On Saturday, Terdoslavich manned right field, then first base before Trustman Park’s largest-ever crowd of 8,217.
That’s the life of a Braves outfielder these days, with B.J. and Justin Upton joining Jason Heyward. Terdoslavich will start the season at Triple-A Gwinnett. He said he isn’t frustrated by his cut earlier this week after such a strong Grapefruit League showing.
“I enjoy the process,” he said. “I think if you get frustrated with the process, you kind of hold yourself back.”
By some accounts, Terdoslavich is a top-five prospect with the Braves. He was joined Saturday by another top-five asset, Christian Bethancourt, who struggled with his bat in the spring (hitting .133) but could be Atlanta’s full-time answer at catcher — should Brian McCann, a free agent, sign with another MLB club next year. Bethancourt, who doubled off Craig Kimbrel in the fifth inning, will start the season in Mississippi.
“Obviously everybody wants to play in the big leagues,” Bethancourt said. “I was counting on the chance to make the team, but I didn’t. That’s not a problem for me. I’m going to keep playing Double-A and try to do the best I can.”
Gattis (.368 with seven homers and 19 RBI during spring training) did make the roster. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound prospect signed his contract earlier Saturday. Gattis’ Josh Hamilton-esque story is intriguing, but he is still unproven at catcher. He once said he’d never play again, instead opting for careers as a janitor and ski lift operator.
His monstrous home run from Saturday, off Nate Hyatt, gave Atlanta a 10-0 lead. The ball bounced off the left field parking lot some 400 feet from home plate.
Minor, a former M-Brave, couldn’t even recall a batting-practice home run that went as far at Trustmark Park.
“The thing that impresses you, he’s got that kind of power and doesn’t strike out much, puts the ball in play, seems like an old throwback type player,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “No batting gloves, no wristbands. That ball he hit today, boy he didn’t miss it.”
There was plenty of obvious star power in Atlanta’s dugout, but again arguably too much star power to go around the Future Stars dugout.
Top prospect J.R. Graham threw an inning after starter Sean Gilmartin. Rome’s William Beckwith, the only Mississippi native on the roster, started at first and drew a walk off Kimbrel.
“There’s a lot. I don’t want to start naming names, but the Braves have always been noted for their minor league operation and it’s still extremely strong,” Cox said.
Minor was solid, allowing a pair of leadoff singles to Matt Lipka and Todd Cunningham but striking out two before giving way to Kimbrel.
Lipka, a centerfielder, had two of the Future Stars’ five hits. Cunningham (off Minor) and Phil Gosselin (off Kimbrel) had the other two against six Braves pitchers. Eric O’Flaherty, Jordan Walden and Anthony Varvaro each threw a perfect inning.
Atlanta is no stranger to producing home-grown talent. Cox and Gonzalez see it happening again, a lot of it again coming from Mississippi.
“The Atlanta Braves have always traditionally injected good young players. We never seem to get old,” Gonzalez said.
“From Minor, (Freddie) Freeman and Heyward, go back all the way to Chipper Jones. He came right from our organization. Every year we seem like we get one or two from the minor leagues. It’s good to see our young players also play against them.”