When you’ve pitched in the big leagues for two decades and won 233 games and a Cy Young Award, it takes a little something extra to get you excited about an exhibition game. Something like a splendid new ballpark, for instance.
“You take it all in,” Braves pitcher Bartolo Colon said after pitching the first three innings of the first-ever game at SunTrust Park, an 8-5 exhibition win against New York Yankees on Friday night. “It’s just kind of cool to be pitching in a new ballpark like this.”
Colon gave up a two-run homer to Greg Bird in the third inning, before Freddie Freeman answered with a long three-run homer in the bottom of the inning to put the Braves ahead, 3-2.
“That would not be a home run last year,” said Freeman, who homered Friday over the right-center power alley, where the wall was 390 feet from home plate at Turner Field and 375 at SunTrust Park (although his hit Friday carried far enough that it would likely have been out at Turner or anywhere else). “It’s definitely a nice feeling. And then Nick (Markakis) hitting it to left-center off the wall (double). It looked like it was carrying tonight so hopefully it continues.”
Colon gave up four hits, two runs and no walks with two strikeouts in three innings of his last warm-up start before he makes his official debut for the Braves on Wednesday in Game 2 of a season-opening road series against the Mets. Julio Teheran will start opening day Monday.
“I feel like I was executing pitches for the most part,” said Colon, who threw 38 strikes in 48 pitches. “Honestly, apart from that home run that I gave up, which I left over the middle, I really felt like I was hitting my spots. The most important thing, like I said before, is that I feel good. And I was hitting the spots, so I’m glad with the effort out there.
“I feel 100 percent — I feel great, physically and mentally. So I’m ready to go.”
R.A. Dickey pitched the fourth and fifth innings for the Braves and allowed just one hit with two strikeouts, arguably his sharpest outing of the spring.
After Braves reliever Jose Ramirez gave up a two-run double to Dustin Fowler that gave the Yankees a 4-3 lead, the Braves took the lead for good with a five-run sixth inning that included two singles, two walks and a two-run bloop double from Jace Peterson.
“It was amazing,” Freeman said of the Braves’ first game at their new park. “Even though it was spring training it felt like a real game today. It was definitely nice getting the energy and getting ready for Monday. And we played good baseball today, too.”
Snitker said, “The guys were excited about playing a game here. It was nice. It’s a beautiful, beautiful place.”
It won’t count in the record books since it was an exhibition game, but for those keeping track, the first pitch thrown at SunTrust Park was a Colon called strike to Brett Gardner. The first (unofficial) homer was a line-drive pulled shot down the right-field line by Bird, and the first by a Brave was Freeman’s impressive drive that sailed over the 16-foot right-center wall — the highest part of an outfield fence that is only six feet high in the left-field corner).
Freeman hit .500 (22-for-44) with one homer, 11 RBIs and a .540 on-base percentage in 17 Grapefruit League games before the Braves broke camp Wednesday. His batting average would’ve led the majors if he hadn’t fallen short of the minimum required plate appearances after missing nine days for the World Baseball Classic.
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