Lake Buena Vista, Fla. -- Eric O’Flaherty and Peter Moylan struck out five of the eight batters they faced during the sixth and seventh innings of a 4-0 win against Washington, but the most important Braves relief work Saturday was by the two graybeards who followed.
The Braves are counting heavily on 38-year-old closer Billy Wagner and 40-year-old setup man Takashi Saito, and each of them got through without incident Saturday working the back end of their first back-to-back games of spring training.
Wagner gave up a leadoff single and retired the next three batters in the ninth inning, after Saito allowed one hit and one walk in the eighth.
“It’s a work in progress,” said Wagner, who threw 10 strikes in 13 pitches Saturday, after giving up two hits and one run and recording three strikeouts Friday against Detroit.
The left-hander missed most of the 2009 season recovering from ligament-transplant elbow surgery, but Wagner scoffed when asked if he had any concerns before Saturday about being able to pitch in back-to-back games.
“That would be an insult to Bobby [Cox] and them to say, ‘We just paid a closer $6.75 million and we’re not sure if he can go back-to-back,” said Wagner, who signed a one-year, $7 million contract that includes a $6.5 million club option for 2011 with a $250,000 buyout.
“I feel good; I feel healthy,” said Wagner, who has a 4.50 ERA in eight appearances this spring, with 10 hits, two walks and 10 strikeouts in eight innings. “I’m excited about the progress right now. Each outing is closer to where I want to be.”
Saito has five consecutive scoreless appearances after a rough beginning when he gave up five runs and six hits in his first two outings of spring training. The Japanese right-hander has allowed just three hits and two walks in his past five scoreless innings.
“I was able to get through without any problems, and able to pitch three times in four days,” Saito said through his interpreter. “So I was happy about that.”
He said he needs to lower the location of his breaking pitches a bit before opening day.
McCann continues torrid spring
Brian McCann went 2-for-3 with a double to raise his spring average to .514, and the catcher would lead the National League in average, on-base percentage (.585) and slugging percentage (1.000) if he enough plate appearances to qualify. He’s 18-for-35 with five doubles, four home runs, 13 RBI, six walks and three strikeouts.