Braves notes: Lowe struggles, defense woeful

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Derek Lowe planned for a nice tune-up start Saturday afternoon, but instead the Braves pitcher got knocked around by Mets hitters and undermined by his own defense.

The Braves made five errors, and Lowe was charged with seven hits and six runs (four earned) in an 8-2 loss against the New York Mets. It was Lowe’s final spring game before his opening-day start March 31 at Washington.

“It’s hard to gear up, but on the other hand, you don’t want to go out there and be a human batting-practice machine, either,” Lowe said. “I’m happy we’re done. It wasn’t the sharpest game, no doubt about it. It really wasn’t very good. That’s what it boils down to.

“But the second you’re done you’ve already forgotten about it and can’t wait to start [the regular season].”

He gave up four hits and three runs in the first inning, one unearned after two errors by fourth-outfielder candidate Wilkin Ramirez. The Mets added three runs in the third inning, two unearned after a two-out error by Brooks Conrad at third base.

"The good thing is, there were still some ground balls," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said of his veteran sinkerballer's performance. "We weren't real pretty behind him."

After allowing only eight hits and one run in 14 innings over his first four starts, Lowe has yielded 14 hits and nine runs (seven earned) in 9 1/3 innings over his past two.

“All in all, I’m happy with the way the spring went,” said Lowe, 2-2 with a 3.09 ERA in six spring starts. "You’re confident with stuff going into the season, which I think is most important."

Lowe said the poor defense didn't cause his problems. In four innings, he issued two leadoff walks. He allowed a well-hit, two-out RBI single by Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey in the third.

Kawakami to start Sunday

The Braves still are trying to trade Kenshin Kawakami, who will start Sunday against Philadelphia in a game to be shown on MLB Network and Fox Sports South.

Kawakami originally was scheduled to start Monday in the Braves’ last spring-training game in Florida before they return to Atlanta for two exhibition games against Minnesota.

He was switched to Sunday to replace Mike Minor, who was optioned to Triple-A Gwinnett after Brandon Beachy won the No. 5 starter competition.

Kawakami, 35, was two weeks late to spring training because of visa issues in Japan. He has a 2.25 ERA in eight innings over four spring games (one start), charged with seven hits, four runs (two earned) and two walks with four strikeouts.

His late arrival to camp has made it even tougher for the Braves to try to find a suitor willing to trade for the veteran right-hander and pick up any significant portion of the $6.7 million he is owed in the final season of his three-year contract.

Five more errors

The Braves’ defense Saturday was as clunky as the name of the Mets’ rebranded spring-training home, Digital Domain Park.

Five errors raised their spring total to 32 in 31 games. Their 126 errors last season were one short of the highest total in the National League.

“Hopefully it was just one of those games in spring training,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve been really good. This is only the second game in spring training that I can think of where we weren’t crisp.”

Ramirez made errors on consecutive plays in first inning -- a bad throw, then a fielding error that allowed David Wright to go to third base on a single.

Conrad's troubles continued when a grounder got by him into left field for a two-out error in the third. The Braves had two more errors by third baseman Joe Mather and one by relief pitcher Jonny Venters.

Conrad has a team-high five errors this spring. His infamous three-error game in a division-series loss against San Francisco capped a seven-game stretch in which the bench player made eight errors after being thrust into a starting role.


Rookie first baseman Freddie Freeman and bench candidate Matt Young had two hits apiece. Young is batting .293 with a .412 on-base percentage. All 12 of his hits have been singles. ... Freeman's first-inning double was the Braves' only extra-base hit. ... Venters did not allow a run in nine spring appearances until Saturday, when the Mets scored an unearned run in the sixth inning on a Jose Reyes double and fielding errors by Venters and Mather.