Viera, Fla. – He’s a month ahead of schedule in his return from elbow surgery, but Scott Proctor refuses to use it as an excuse for anything.
The veteran reliever gave up three runs, two hits and a walk before recording the first out of the Braves’ 9-3 loss against the Washington Nationals Sunday at Space Coast Stadium.
“It’s kind of weird now, sometimes your rhythm gets off,” said Proctor, who allowed a single, a walk and Ryan Zimmerman’s three-run homer in the first inning, then retired the next three batters including one strikeout.
“Today was one of those days where you battle,” he said. “But you’re going to have those during the season. Surgery is no excuse at this point.”
Proctor pitched the first inning after the Braves, thinking the game might get rained out, moved starter Tommy Hanson to a morning minor league game.
As it happened, the full nine innings were completed an hour before thunderstorms and heavy rain arrived.
After Proctor and bullpen candidate Jesse Chavez each gave up three runs in one inning apiece, recent roster cuts Mariano Gomez and Erik Cordier combined for six relief innings including four scoreless innings by Cordier.
Manager Bobby Cox was appraising Proctor’s performance when he made a sequeway into a defense of Chavez, the right-hander who has an 18.00 ERA in seven appearances and has allowed eight runs and 11 hits in 1-1/3 innings of his past two games.
“Proctor was OK,” Cox said. “This field is so tough, it’s like lightning on the ground. But he threw good. His arm strength and everything was good again.
“Chavez was victimized the same way — bunts, the little ground balls… I think he’s thrown better the last two times out. He’s given up a ton of runs, but he’s throwing strikes.
“He’s throwing better. Believe it or not, with the stats — if you’re going to look at them, you’d say ‘you’re nuts.’ But he’s throwing much better. He’s in the strike zone better.”
Proctor, at 33, has made a smooth recovery from ligament-transplant elbow surgery and will be counted on by the Braves. But it’s been under two weeks since he returned to game action.
It’s likely he will spend at least a couple of weeks at Class AAA Gwinnett in April before he’s added to the Braves’ 25-man roster.
“I’m 100-percent sure his arm is healthy,” Cox said. “Whether it’s strong enough to go back-to-back and off a day and pitch again … we’ll see.”
Cordier, dropped in the first round of roster cuts, came from minor league camp Sunday and made a strong impression while allowing just two hits in four scoreless innings, with no walks and three strikeouts.
“Cordier’s the one that’s really made a makeover with Roger [McDowell],” Cox said of the right-hander’s recent work with the pitching coach. “He’s throwing all strikes. God, he was impressive. He really was. His control is so much better.”
Before he was dropped from the roster, Cordier pitched in two games and allowed no hits and two walks with one strikeout in two scoreless innings. He has six scoreless innings with four hits allowed in three Grapefruit League appearances.
Cordier, 24, was 7-8 with a 3.87 ERA in 25 starts at Class A Myrtle Beach in 2009, where he had an alarming 74 walks with 88 strikeouts in 121 innings.