Gus Schlosser continues to impress the Braves this spring training, and as injuries have mounted the stakes keep getting higher for him.
Braves general manager Frank Wren characterized the sidearmer Schlosser as the “next line of defense” for the Braves rotation, and given the injuries to Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy, the Braves decided to give him his first spring training start Saturday against the Cardinals.
Schlosser responded with four solid innings in a 6-2 loss. He allowed three runs (two earned) in the third inning, but his own throwing error compounded a jam that started with an infield hit and pitcher Joe Kelly swinging away on a ball he had squared up to bunt.
He gave up four singles, mostly the groundball variety, walked none and struck out five, while throwing 40 of his 57 pitches for strikes.
“He slid into a spot which we didn’t anticipate, but we do think he has the stuff, he has the makeup,” Wren said. “He’s established himself as a guy we can trust. Now he’s going to get an opportunity to show us what he can do out here.”
Schlosser figures to open the season in Triple-A Gwinnett’s rotation, but if one of the Braves’ four healthy starters falters or gets injured, the Braves could turn to him. They also might decide they need him in long relief.
“I tried to show them what I can do and pitch my game to the best I can and not try to do something out of my comfort zone,” said Schlosser, who has a 1.93 ERA over 9 1/3 innings this spring. “And I think I did that. I think maybe I opened some eyes, and we’ll see what happens.”
The Braves got another look at some of the top candidates for the final bullpen spots Saturday and the picture is still unclear with a little more than two weeks to go before Opening Day.
Ryan Buchter, a contender for a left-hand specialist role, hit a batter and walked another in a scoreless eighth against the Cardinals, showing some of the command problems he had avoided for three straight scoreless outings. Ian Thomas, another left-hander trying to win a spot, gave up two runs on a walk and two hits in his inning of work.
“As a major league manager or pitching coach, or anywhere in baseball, when that bullpen door opens, you want to know what’s coming in,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We’re seeing some decent outings and then back to a base on balls or a hit batter, people on base. But we want to see four, five or six of those outings in a row.”
That’s not to say the Braves are ruling anybody out either. Gonzalez said he wants these relievers to use the competition these final two weeks to get better, if not for Opening Day then later on this season.
“I hope they’re out there reading that they’re in the mix because you add a little adversity too, see how they react to competition,” Gonzalez said. “We cut 17 guys (Friday) and now all of a sudden that locker room starts getting empty. You get a little closer to the start of the season you’ll see guys react differently.”
Gonzalez said he plans to carry 12 pitchers for the first couple of weeks of the season. And with only four starters, that leaves eight spots in the bullpen. Only Craig Kimbrel, Luis Avilan, Jordan Walden, David Carpenter and Anthony Varvaro are virtual locks in the bullpen at this point, leaving three spots up for grabs.
Cardinals pitcher Joe Kelly put on quite a show Saturday, pitching 5 1/3 innings while allowing only one run and having that be the footnote. Kelly went 3-for-3 with two RBIs in his first three at-bats of the spring. He became the first pitcher to have three hits in a spring training game since March 30, 2010 when Marlins pitcher Chris Volstad had three hits against the Nationals.
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