Chacin shines, Kendrick struggles again for Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Veterans Jhoulys Chacin and Kyle Kendrick came to spring training as non-roster invitees with opportunities to make the Braves’ opening-day rotation. Chacin has made the most of his early chances, while Kendrick has not.

In a pair of split-squad losses Friday, Chacin worked three scoreless innings against the Cardinals in Jupiter, while Kendrick got shelled for nine hits and seven runs and failed to make it out of the second inning in a 9-2 defeat against the Phillies at Wide World of Sports.

Prospect Chris Ellis gave up three runs in the fourth inning of the 4-3 loss to the Cardinals.

Chacin, coming off an impressive winter-ball season in Venezuela, has pitched five scoreless innings in two games (one start) for the Braves, allowing three hits and one walk with four strikeouts.

The 28-year-old right-hander battled shoulder problems during the past two injury-shortened seasons with Arizona and Colorado, after a career-best season for the Rockies in 2014 when he went 14-10 with a 3.47 ERA in 197 1/3 innings.

While Chacin has been just what the Braves hoped, Kendrick has struggled mightily in two starts, allowed 14 hits, 10 runs (nine earned) and three walks with one strikeout in 3 2/3 innings (22.09 ERA). There were four doubles among nine hits against him Friday before he left with two outs in the second inning.

“My sinker was up. Obviously a lot of hits,” Kendrick said. “I wanted to come in throwing strikes today, because I felt like last time I was behind in the count. And today was kind of up in the zone really. Fell behind in the count early. Those guys were aggressive. They’re coming in swinging, they wanted to get some fastballs. Guys are ambushing. But when you’re up in the zone, that’s kind of what happens….

“Really all I take from today was, ball was up. Wasn’t really good at all. I’ve got to fix that, for sure.”

Kendrick hasn’t had an ERA as low as 4.60 since 2012, and the longtime former Phillies pitcher saw his ERA balloon to 6.32 last year in his only season with the Rockies as he gave up a league-high 100 earned runs in 142 1/3 innings.

He knows he needs to pitch much better to have any shot of beating out other rotation candidates including returners Williams Perez and left-hander Manny Banuelos and prospect Aaron Blair.

“Yeah, it’s a different situation than I’ve been in in my career,” Kendrick said of being a non-roster invitee trying to earn a spot. “But you kind of always want to go out there and impress, it doesn’t matter if you’re on a guaranteed deal or a minor league deal. You always want to go out there and impress.

“I don’t know, maybe I’m putting too more pressure on myself. I was trying to relax and make pitches. Today was obviously not a good day. I just have to prepare for the next one.”