Following the Braves much-needed off day on Thursday, Atlanta was back in action Friday for the team’s first live broadcast on FOX Sports against the Twins. With 12 games left in Spring Training, the unofficial second-half of camp has begun, and there were plenty of moments of note from last night as the Braves went with 2021 Rookie of the Year candidate Ian Anderson as well as its projected regular-season starting lineup.
Below are some notes from Friday night’s 4-2 win.
Anderson in mid-season form
Perhaps the biggest storyline of the night was the outing by Anderson, who kept Minnesota’s batters guessing through 99.9% of his start, striking out nine in 4.1 innings.
Anderson was crisp and worked at a nice, quick pace during Friday’s outing, sitting 94-96 MPH with his fastball and allowing just one Twins baserunner through the first three frames. For just his third outing of Spring Training, Anderson’s stuff looked strong, and, in addition to his effective heater up in the zone, for much of the night his changeup also generated plenty of swings and misses.
It was only in the 5th inning that the righty started missing his spots with the offspeed as manager Brian Snitker came and got the young righty after back-to-back hits from Brent Rooker and Tzu-Wei Lin; the former of which was a well-struck line drive for a double that hit the left-center wall in the air.
Anderson left the start with one out in the 5th and two runners on, but his final line included just two earned runs from four hits as well as one walk.
In Anderson’s post-outing interview with the FOX Sports announcers, he stated that he’s looking forward to the dramatic increase in workload during the upcoming 2021 regular season. And I think I speak for us all when I say we certainly are too. This guy’s a gamer for sure.
Excellence from the bullpen
Following Anderson’s departure in the 5th inning, the Braves rolled out six relievers from the ‘pen, starting with minor league star Daysbel Hernandez. Hernandez impressed by quickly getting Atlanta out of a jam and generating an inning-ending double-play while flashing his 96-MPH fastball. We could see the 24-year-old in Atlanta real soon, as he hasn’t allowed a run yet in his three innings overall this spring.
Next from the bullpen was Nate Jones, Will Smith, Chris Martin, Jacob Webb, and Grant Dayton respectively. All looked great on the mound Friday versus the Twins, though I was most impressed with both Jones and Smith. I believe that funky delivery by Jones, along with his 95-96 MPH fastball, is going to play nicely in 2021. And for Smith, his fastball stayed in the low-90s in his one inning of work, but his breaking ball was sharp and he flew through the 7th inning needing just 15 pitches, logging two strikeouts.
Martin, Webb and Dayton all combined for two strikeouts, and save for the latter of those three, all were working in the mid to high-90s. All-in-all, the Twins didn’t reach base against the Braves bullpen. That’s all you can ask for.
Just enough offense
The Braves picked up just five hits as a team Friday night, but I did notice some very “smart” hitting as it appeared several Atlanta batters were trying (and mostly succeeding) in going the other way. I counted Austin Riley, Ehire Adrianza, Ryan Goins, and even Pablo Sandoval, as all having well-struck batted balls to the opposite field in Friday’s win. Even if all didn’t go down as hits, it’s a very good thing to see just a few weeks into spring.
Is Chipper Jones already getting these guys on his level?
Adrianza and Riley perhaps had the best performances as the former made a pair of nice plays at shortstop. That was ollowed by a battle back from an 0-2 count at the plate in the 6th for a well deserved walk. Adrianza also belted an RBI double (line drive the other way) in the 7th to break the 2-2 tie.
Meanwhile, Riley made a nice charging, bare-handed play from third in the opening inning followed by a sharply-hit line drive double (oppo style) in the 3rd. Riley also displayed some nice baserunning in the 3rd inning. He went from third-to-home on a ball hit in the infield, sliding, and just beating the tag at the plate to score a run.
It was a good win Friday and definitely nice to watch a Braves game on FOX Sports. I have to say… I actually missed Chip Caray. Two more weeks, Braves Country!
— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) March 19, 2021