After enduring two elbow surgeries in 15 months, Braves pitcher Brandon Beachy entered spring training with a plan to ease back and not let pride or ego get in the way of the bigger purpose, staying healthy and building toward the regular season.
That said, giving up five hits and two runs while recording five outs in a 7-5 loss against the Astros in his first spring-training start Friday night wasn’t enjoyable for the right-hander. He had one strikeout and one walk while throwing 43 pitches in 1 2/3 innings, and left trailing 2-1.
“Yeah, it’s not going to be easy,” he said of being patient and controlling his effort early. “I mean, I don’t like giving up hits and runs. That’s not fun. But I’m trying to have a big-picture mentality. … At least for the first few, I’m going to be more concerned with (how it feels) tomorrow morning than anything that happens on the field tonight. So we’ll see tomorrow morning. I’m pretty optimistic.”
Beachy last pitched in a game Aug. 20 against the Mets, his fifth start after coming back from May 2012 Tommy John surgery. After going 2-1 with a 4.50 ERA, he was shut down because of lingering elbow soreness and inflammation. An MRI showed a small bone chip, which was removed through arthroscopic surgery in September.
He didn’t throw as many breaking balls Friday as he will later, and his fastball was clocked at 89-91 mph, several ticks below pre-surgery velocity. Beachy, 27, said even if he weren’t coming back from surgery, he wouldn’t be throwing at maximum velocity this early. Not anymore.
“Yeah, I did that a couple of years ago. That wasn’t very smart,” he said. “So even if I was coming off four healthy seasons in a row, I think it would be smart to not worry about velocity at this time. … I’d like to think I can throw harder than I did tonight. But it’s early. Hopefully by the end of (March) I’ll be throwing harder than tonight, ready to go in April.”
J-Up update: Justin Upton has missed the Braves’ first three games because of a sore muscle in his right side, but the left fielder showed no lingering effects when he took batting practice with the rest of the team before Friday night’s game against the Astros, and manager Fredi Gonzalez said he hoped to have Upton in the lineup Sunday.
After being scratched from Wednesday’s Grapefruit League opener as a precautionary measure, Upton hit balls off a tee or flipped to him for two days before ramping things up Friday with full-fledged batting practice.
Uggla’s fast start: It’s only the first week of spring training, but the Braves like what they’ve seen from second baseman Dan Uggla, who’s batting 1.000 with three RBIs after his first five plate appearances.
Uggla had two walks, a sacrifice fly and two RBIs on Friday and is 2-for-2 with three RBIs in five plate appearances for the spring. His two-out walk in the first inning brought in the first run of the game. The Braves loaded the bases with none out against right-hander Lucas Harrell on two walks and second-base prospect Tommy La Stella’s infield hit.
Cunningham goes deep: Todd Cunningham hit an eighth-inning leadoff homer for the Braves. The minor league outfielder has worked some at second base and third base during the offseason and spring training, and first-base coach Terry Pendleton said he’s doing fine handling ground balls.
Cunningham played some infield in high school and suggested to the Braves at the beginning of the offseason that he’d like to work some in that area to increase his potential playing opportunities. They liked the idea and told him to focus on second base and third base.
Rough relief: Braves relievers Jordan Walden and prospect J.R. Graham each gave up two runs Friday. Walden allowed a walk and two doubles in the fifth inning, and Graham gave up three hits and a walk while recording two outs in the sixth. Gonzalez noted that it was Graham’s first game in almost nine months, since being shut down with a strained shoulder last season in Double-A.
Etc.: Freddie Freeman had two hits and a walk in three plate appearances, including an RBI single. … Braves backup catcher Gerald Laird, who left Thursday’s game with back spasms, could be ready to play by Sunday or Monday, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. … Fox regional networks Fox Sports South and SportSouth will televise 156 of 162 Braves games this season. Play-by-play announcer Chip Caray and analyst Joe Simpson return and will be joined by Hall of Fame pitcher Tom Glavine as guest analyst for some games.
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