No one really knew what to expect on Saturday afternoon as the Braves opened up Spring Training play at their new home in Northport, FL. The soon-to-be 34-year-old Felix Hernandez was tasked with starting the Braves’ Spring slate, and it was anyone’s guess how the veteran’s first pro outing in a non-Mariners’ uniform would go. The question of whether or not Hernandez can revitalize his career or not has been a prominent one in Braves Country recently, and the first start of the year was hopefully going to show us something… one way or another.
But of course, not to take too much from one start that’s essentially meaningless… the early results looked promising.
In a 30-pitch, two-inning outing on Saturday, you couldn’t help but see a confident Hernandez on the mound. Currently 20 pounds lighter since last season, the veteran righty was surprisingly aggressive and efficient Saturday, throwing 17 strikes to seven batter’s faced, allowing zero hits, one walk and striking out two. Overall, King Felix mixed and matched his elite changeup, located his fastball well and pitched with a tempo that was smooth and clean. In terms of consistency, you couldn’t ask for a better start from a guy that many have legitimate doubts about.
For a pitcher that has been putting up career-worst numbers every season for the last three years, Hernandez’s performance on Saturday perhaps suggests that he’s not that far off from helping out the Braves this regular season.
Manager Brian Snitker’s thoughts on King Felix’s outing, after the Braves’ 5-0 win over Baltimore…
“I think temp, aggressive, the way he used his assortment — it was pretty good. I just kind of liked the upbeat aggressiveness he was pitching with. That right there was a really good start for him. For the first time out and all.”
Sunday features another 1:05 p.m. (EST) start for the Braves as they will face the Detroit Tigers at home. Right-hander Bryse Wilson will take the mound for Atlanta, while Detroit will go with righty Ivan Nova. It appears the Braves will go with several regulars again today, with a mixture of prospects and part-timers.
Braves lineup (Sunday)
- Ronald Acuna, CF
- Ozzie Albies, 2B
- Freddie Freeman, 1B
- Austin Riley, 3B
- Adam Duvall, RF
- Adeiny Hechavarria, SS
- Rafael Ortega, LF
- Peter O’Brien, DH
- William Contreras, C