LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – After Anthony Recker’s two-run single highlighted a four-run fifth inning that put the Braves ahead, manager Brian Snitker was impressed by three relievers who combined for four scoreless innings to finish off a 7-4 Grapefruit League-opening win against the Blue Jays.
Mauricio Cabrera threw four pitches clocked at 100 mph or higher in the sixth inning; Akeel Morris worked two scoreless innings with three strikeouts, and Luke Jackson pitched a perfect ninth with a strikeout to end the game before a crowd of 7,217 at Champion Stadium.
“We called Morris up twice last year and never pitched him, so that’s the first time I’ve seen him,” Snitker said of the right-hander from the Virgin Islands, who pitched in one game for the Mets in 2015 and came to the Braves in a June 2016 trade for Kelly Johnson.
Morris, 24, spent last season in Double-A and had a 2.27 ERA in 25 appearances for the Braves’ Mississippi affiliate after the trade, with 50 strikeouts and 21 walks in 35 2/3 innings. Atlanta called him up twice to the big leagues but didn’t use him in a game.
The slender right-hander entered Saturday in the seventh inning with a 6-4 lead and had three strikeouts in two hitless innings with one walk.
“I don’t care if it’s spring training, late in the game like that, that’s pretty good,” Snitker said. “I like the off-speed stuff, the little variety that he had.”
Snitker also had plenty of praise for Jackson, a hard-throwing right-hander who came to the Braves in a November trade for Tyrell Jenkins.
Jackson, 25, had a 3.69 ERA with 59 strikeouts and 32 walks in 46 1/3 innings over 36 appearances last season in Double-A and Triple-A, and in 15 major league appearances over two seasons he had an 8.50 ERA with nine strikeouts, 10 walks and 27 hits allowed in 18 innings. So, command has been the only thing holding him back.
So far in camp, he’s had encouraging results in that regard, showing better control including no walks or hits allowed Saturday.
“Been watching Jackson all spring, he’s an interesting guy to me, has a really nice arm,” Snitker said. “In the sides, (batting practice) and stuff like that, he’s a really interesting guy. You’ve got to like the arm. And secondary pitches — he’s OK. We all know it takes a lot of guys to get through a major league season, so it’s nice to see the stuff.”
Snitker also liked what he saw from some of the Braves’ position-player prospects including outfielder Dustin Peterson, who was 2-for-3 with a pair of singles, and infielder Johan Camargo, who was 1-for-2 with a walk and made a nice defensive play at shortstop.
Veteran outfielder Emilio Bonifacio, another opening-day roster hopeful, was 2-for-2 with a double, a walk and two RBIs.
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