Braves notes: Tyler Matzek returns; Hall of Famer’s nephew gets into game

NORTH PORT, Fla. – At the end of the 2022 regular season, Tyler Matzek took the mound in Miami.

It marked his last appearance in a game – until Monday’s spring training contest at CoolToday Park.

In his return to the mound from Tommy John surgery, Matzek allowed a hit and issued a walk in a scoreless inning. The most important part: He’s healthy.

“That was pretty good,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said after the Braves’ 2-1 loss to the Orioles at CoolToday Park. “That was good to see him come out and throw it over. That was all right. …I’m glad he got that out of the way.”

Another returning player, though not from Tommy John: Dylan Lee. He underwent shoulder surgery to remove loose debris last September. On Monday, he gave up a run (on a home run) on two hits over 2/3 of an inning.

“It’s gonna get better, I think,” Snitker said of Lee. “He just needs to get built back up. As long as he feels good and we can keep getting him out there, then I think the stuff is gonna improve.”

This was a packed day on the mound for Atlanta, which also pitched Reynaldo Lopez and A.J. Minter. The left-handed Minter allowed a hit, but struck out two, in a scoreless inning.

Now, to Lopez.

Reynaldo Lopez makes Braves debut

In his Braves debut, Reynaldo Lopez, who is competing for the fifth spot in the rotation, surrendered one run – on a homer – over two innings.

“I feel good,” Lopez said after.

Snitker was impressed.

“He’s been throwing really good, and thought he threw the ball really well today,” Snitker said.

Opening Day preview?

Here was the Braves’ lineup for Monday’s contest:

RF Ronald Acuña Jr.

2B Ozzie Albies

3B Austin Riley

1B Matt Olson

DH Marcell Ozuna

CF Michael Harris II

C Travis d’Arnaud

LF Jarred Kelenic

SS Orlando Arcia

LHP Max Fried

If you flip d’Arnaud with Sean Murphy, you could have the Braves’ exact batting order for March 28 in Philadelphia – barring injury, of course. But a lot can change between now and then.

Still, it was fun to get a peek at what could be a regular-season lineup.

Nephew of Braves Hall of Famer gets into game

J.J. Niekro made his spring training debut on Monday.

If you recognize the last name, it’s because J.J.’s uncle is the late Phil Niekro, a Hall-of-Fame pitcher who is among the most iconic Braves in franchise history.

On Monday, J.J. struck out two batters over 1 1/3 scoreless innings in his first big-league spring game.

“It was awesome,” Snitker said of getting Niekro in the game. “I remember when we signed him. That was pretty neat.”

Snitker was in the organization at the same time as Phil Niekro.

J.J., a righty, spent the 2023 season in High A.