TAMPA – Twelve games into the Grapefruit League schedule, Braves setup reliever Eric O’Flaherty (groin) and Jordan Walden (back) have one appearance between them, and Walden was sent back to Atlanta this week to have his sore back checked.
Walden has been getting treatment for back pain since his Feb. 23 Braves debut against the Yankees, when he was charged with three hits and four runs (one earned) in one inning. General manager Frank Wren said Walden was sent to Atlanta to be examined, but that he didn't think the former Angels closer would be out for long.
The Braves got him in an offseason trade for Tommy Hanson, and the big right-hander is expected to have a key setup role. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Walden had no history of back problems.
O’Flaherty has not pitched in a game this spring after having what was characterized as minor groin soreness early in camp. Gonzalez said the Braves were merely being cautious with the veteran left-hander due to history of back issues and the fact that he typically needs only six or seven spring appearances to be ready for the season.
O’Flaherty said he’s had no problems at all with his back this spring.
Simmons advances in WBC: The Braves will be without shortstop Andrelton Simmons at least another week after his Netherlands team advanced to the second round of the World Baseball Classic halfway around the planet.
Netherlands and Chinese Taipei advanced from Pool B in Taiwan, the Netherlands squad securing its second-round berth with a 4-1 win over Australia on Tuesday.
In three games, Simmons went 4-for-13 with three doubles, one RBI and team-highs of three runs and seven total bases, along with a few outstanding defensive plays. The Dutch team plays next on Friday at Tokyo against the winner of Pool A (Japan or Cuba).
The second round is a modified double-elimination format, and Netherlands plays again Saturday or Sunday depending upon the outcome of its Friday game.
Simmons played in the Braves’ first two Grapefruit League games Feb. 22-23 before flying to Taiwan for Netherlands training camp. While he and utility man Ramiro Pena (Mexico) are playing in the WBC, Tyler Pastornicky and 22-year-old prospect Elmer Reyes are handling shortstop duties for the Braves.
Pena left Braves camp Sunday for Mexico’s training camp in Arizona. The absence isn't expected to impact the job candidacy of Pena, who'll likely be the Braves' backup shortstop when the season begins.
Rodriguez added to WBC roster: Braves minor league pitcher Daniel Rodriguez was a late addition to Mexico’s roster for the WBC. Mexico is in Pool D in Phoenix along with the United States (with Braves closer Craig Kimbrel), Italy and Canada.
Mexico plays its first game Thursday against Italy, while the U.S. team opens pool play Friday against Mexico. The U.S. plays Italy on Saturday and Canada on Sunday.
Two teams will advance from Pool D to second-round play beginning March 12 at Miami, and the four winners of second-round pools advance to the championship round March 17-19 in San Francisco.
Short hops: Braves starter Paul Maholm pitched 3-2/3 scoreless innings of Tuesday's 2-0 win against the Yankees despite allowing three hits and four walks with two strikeouts. He threw 45 strikes in 81 pitches. In three spring starts, the lefty has allowed nine hits, five runs and six walks in 8-1/3 innings.... Jordan Schafer led off the game with a double for the Braves and scored on a Justin Upton groundout. Schafer also had two walks and stole a base.... Tyler Pastornicky scored the Braves' other run on a balk in the seventh inning, after singling, stealing second and going to third on a throwing error.... Prospect J.R. Graham pitched the eighth and ninth innings, allowing one hit and no walks. He's pitched five scoreless innings in three appearances, with three hits, three walks and two strikeouts.... The Braves have their first scheduled off day of spring training on Wednesday. Julio Teheran will start Thursday against the Tigers at Champion Stadium.... Braves infielder Joe Terdoslavich had eight hits in his past nine plate appearances and led the Grapefruit League in hits (11) before Tuesday. Terdoslavich and Justin Upton were tied for seventh in total bases (15)…. Former Braves Ralph Garr and Fred McGriff were in uniform for Tuesday night’s game against the Yankees in Tampa. Garr is a guest instructor in Braves camp this week. McGriff already did a stint as guest instructor this spring, but often suits up to help out when the Braves play the Yankees in his hometown of Tampa.