LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) Aaron Harang made his Atlanta Braves debut, allowing six runs, including a long homer to Miguel Cabrera, while pitching into the sixth inning of a 9-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Thursday.
Harang, who won 16 games in 2006 and `07, was signed by the Braves on March 24 after spending the start of spring training with the Cleveland Indians. He allowed eight hits in 5 2-3 innings.
”I have my stuff together and I know how it is going to go,” Harang said. ”I really wanted a chance to pitch to (Braves catcher) Evan Gattis. I’ve been feeling good and I just wanted to get my pitch count up. That’s what I wanted to do all spring.”
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Max Scherzer made his final start of the spring for the Tigers and went 6 2-3 innings, giving up homers to Jordan Schafer and B.J. Upton.
Tigers shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles on Monday, went 2 for 3 with a double to raise his spring batting average to .441.
Braves: Manager Fredi Gonzalez said he was fine with Harang’s effort. The Braves are in serious need of starting pitching after losing Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen for the season as they each have Tommy John surgery for the second time. Mike Minor is out for the first month and the Braves released Freddy Garcia on Monday. Erwin Santana was signed March 12 to join a staff with only Alex Wood and Julio Teheran as remaining starters.
Tigers: Scherzer was applauded warmly by the Lakeland crowd after being removed with two outs in the seventh. Scherzer and the Tigers have cut off discussions on a new contract and Scherzer said he wasn’t happy with the way the news was released but said he sat down with General Manager Dave Dombrowski and things were fine between them.
”The Tigers fans care a lot about us,” Scherzer said. ”I have a lot of fans. My decision (to not negotiate during the season) was my decision, but we are all doing our job.”
Scherzer said that he wasn’t going to relax after last year’s 21-win season that earned him his first Cy Young Award.
”I might not have the same stats this year,” Scherzer said. ”But I think I am a better pitcher.”
Braves: RHP Cory Gearrin, who left his outing on Tuesday with a right elbow strain, was headed back to Atlanta for further evaluation.
Tigers: Outfielder Rajai Davis made his longest appearance since pulling a hamstring March 16. He went 0 for 4 with a strikeout in seven innings. … Outfielder Andy Dirks is still out indefinitely after undergoing lower back surgery. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said Dirks will not being going north with the team and will stain in Lakeland for rehab. … Outfielder Don Kelly is recovering from his left hamstring injury and is expected to play in a minor league game in Lakeland on Friday.
Cabrera’s home run off of Harang would have cleared the berm that runs beyond the left field fence at Joker Marchant Stadium if a fan didn’t make an overhead catch at the top of the berm. Harang said the homer came on a changeup and that he had also given up a long homer to Cabrera last season when Harang pitched for Seattle.
OFF TO A GOOD START
The Braves had to be concerned with Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, both of whom had difficult seasons at the plate last year. Upton, who came from Tampa Bay as a free agent, batted only .184, and Uggla hit .179. This spring, Upton is batting .267 and his homer off Scherzer was his first of the spring. Uggla is batting .269 with four homers.
”I like what I am seeing from both of them,” Gonzalez said. ”They are hitting the baseball and we are getting a lot out of them.”