LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Another reminder that spring-training scores, particularly early in camp, mean next to nothing: The Braves lost 9-1 to the Red Sox on Friday, and Braves manager Brian Snitker was pleased.
Pleased because the two areas that Snitker was focused on entering Friday’s game — the performances of starting pitcher Julio Teheran and reliever Arodys Vizcaino — both had encouraging outcomes. Teheran, in his second and final game before the World Baseball Classic, pitched three scoreless innings, allowing three hits and one walk with three strikeouts.
Vizcaino topped out at 98 mph and had two strikeouts in one inning. After missing most of the second half of the 2016 season with oblique and shoulder strains, “Viz” has five strikeouts and one walk in two innings over his first two spring appearances. The lone hit against him was Andrew Benintendi’s bases-empty home run in Friday’s sixth inning.
“Viz probably got one down in that kid’s happy zone; he’s a good little player,” Snitker said of Benintendi, an American League Rookie of the Year candidate whose four hits Friday also included two doubles and a two-run single. “Holy cow, first time I’ve seen him. But yeah, those were the two bright spots (Teheran and Vizcaino). The thing I really zeroed in on was Viz again, and he was really good, I thought.”
The Braves had Vizcaino skip winter ball so that he could rest and rebuild arm strength, after his potential All-Star season — he was that good as the Braves’ closer for most of the first half — turned sour because of injuries.
“After the way he ended last year we were hoping he would come in and (impress),” Snitker said. “He’s been getting better and better really. The side (sessions in the bullpen early in camp), one after another was better. And today I thought was real good. That was worth the day there. Julio, I thought was really sharp. Good off-speed pitches, throwing them behind in the count.”
It was a scoreless game until the Red Sox got six runs in the fourth inning against journeyman left-hander Sam Freeman, who faced seven batters, gave up five hits and two walks, and left without recording an out and with his ERA at 54.00 in two appearances.
Teheran threw 26 strikes in 46 pitches and worked out of trouble after giving up a double and hitting a batter with one out in the first inning, after allowing a leadoff single in the second inning, and after a leadoff walk in the third inning. Benintendi followed Marco Hernandez’s third-inning walk with a double, but Hernandez was thrown out trying to score from first when center fielder Ender Inciarte and relay man Dansby Swanson both made strong throws.
“I felt really good, better than the first one,” said Teheran, who was charged with one hit and one walk in two scoreless innings of his spring debut Sunday against Houston. “I got to work a little bit on situations, a couple of guys on base. That’s good, something you need before the WBC and the season. I made pitches whenever I needed to and it was really good.”
Teheran will pitch for his native Colombia for the first time in the WBC that begins next week. He is scheduled to start Colombia’s second game Saturday (March 11) against Canada. Playing first base for the Canadian team will be none other than Braves teammate Freddie Freeman, who engaged in some good-natured trash-talking with Teheran Friday, saying he planned to “swing as hard as I possibly can.”
“Well, that’s his game,” Teheran said, laughing. “I know, we’ve been teammates for a long time. I know him and he knows me. That’s going to be fun.”
Freeman said he’d been carefully scouting Teheran, mentally filing away his pitch patterns.
“I know he’s been scouting me,” Teheran said. “That’s funny. We know each other. He was messing around. I know it’s going to be a fun moment when I get to face him the first time. I can’t wait. I can’t wait to get on the mound and see Freddie walking up to the box. We’re all excited. He’s excited to represent Canada in the WBC, that’s going to be a good thing. And I’m excited to represent Colombia.”