10 things to glean from Braves' spring opener
Here are 10 things we blindly gleaned from listening to Braves-Tigers on the radio, as the clubs launched the official start of exhibition play on Friday.
But first, a mini-rant:
In this age of lightning-speed Internet and absurdly advanced technologies, you'd think Major League Baseball would allow Web consumers to purchase the closed-circuit feed of every Grapefruit and Cactus league game — for a nominal fee, of course.
Instead, as an MLB.TV subscriber, I'm entitled to only 212 games (or something like that) for February and March . . . which explains why I'm flying blind for this piece:
Tigers 2, Braves 1
1. The Braves' starting lineup featured Andrelton Simmons batting leadoff, with Jason Heyward in the No. 2 hole, followed by Justin Upton, Freddie Freeman, B.J. Upton and then Dan Uggla. This could easily be the order, 1 through 6, on Opening Day against the Phillies.
2. Speaking of which, I don't expect the Upton brothers (combined 0 for 4 Friday) to start any regular-season games, hitting back to back in the lineup. The Braves apparently prefer book-ending the siblings around a big hitter, like Heyward (27 HR/21 steals last year) or Freeman (good bet for 100 RBI).
3. Tim Hudson (two innings, zero hits allowed) appeared to be on his A-game Friday, harmlessly retiring Omar Infante and Miguel Cabrera in the first inning, then duping Tigers shortstop Jhonny Peralta into a crucial double play in the second. (Peralta had 20 GDPs last year.)
4. Take a screenshot of the pitch-by-pitch log listing back-to-back walks from Braves reliever Craig Kimbrel (third inning). It may be the last time (all season) you see consecutive free passes from Kimbrel, who didn't surrender a single walk from May 18-July 28 last year.
5. During the fifth, let's assume the strikeout/throw-out two-fer at second base, involving B.J. Upton and Freeman, was the result of a foiled hit-and-run attempt. If not, perhaps Freeman will be a stealth candidate for eight seasonal steals — doubling his career high from 2011.
6. The svelte-looking Uggla can expect more infield hits this season. It's one of the notable perks of being quicker and more flexible. As for hitting 30 bombs — that's a tough one to predict.
7. There's no way around it: The Braves' hitters will likely rank among the National League, uh, leaders in strikeouts this season. Against the Tigers, eight batters punched out.
8. Braves pitcher Ryan Buchter, who took the loss (three hits, two runs), was drafted 36 picks ahead of Tigers catcher Alex Avila in 2005 . . . and a full nine rounds ahead of two-time Cy Young Tim Lincecum of the San Francisco Giants.
9. There are no surprises with Gerald Laird (0 for 2 on Friday) at this point in his career. He possesses solid defensive skills, a streaky bat and quicker feet than most catchers in their mid-30s.
With the Tigers last year, Laird produced rock-solid numbers in batting average (.282) and on-base percentage (.337). Going further, he posted 13 outings of multiple hits and didn't go more than three games (of two or more at-bats) without registering one hit. In other words, he likely won't carry the Braves on his back for one, two or three weeks . . . but he won't be the weak link during that span, either.
To view my Laird profile from spring training, click here.
10. I had the pleasure of holding a locker-room door open for Braves prospect Joey Terdoslavich the other day at camp. That was my only encounter with Atlanta's sole source of run production on Friday — as Terdoslavich homered to lead off the ninth.