LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Braves’ fifth-starter competition is officially underway, and Brandon Beachy probably wishes he could take a mulligan.
All three candidates pitched two innings apiece Sunday against the Mets, with Rodrigo Lopez and Mike Minor giving up no runs, while Beachy allowed two runs and three hits.
“Lopez did a nice job; Minor did the same thing,” Gonzalez said. “Beachy got into a little jam, but he got himself out to minimize the damage.”
Lopez pitched the first two innings and threw three consecutive balls to leadoff hitter Willie Harris. He walked Harris on six pitches, then made an adjustment to a mound that Lopez said had a deeper slope than the bullpen mound.
The veteran right-hander got six outs in the next six batters, including a double-play grounder by Josh Thole in the second inning. Lopez allowed one hit and one walk with one strikeout.
“I threw one breaking ball, but [otherwise] just mixed fastball and few changeups,” Lopez said. “I feel pretty good. I have a good feeling about it, and I’m just going to continue to work.”
Gonzalez told reporters two weeks ago that he goes in with no preconceived notions and that the race is wide open between Lopez and the two promising rookies.
“Yeah, that’s what I’ve been told,” Lopez said. “I’m just trying to work on my thing and regardless of what happens, try to have a good season.”
Minor had no walks or strikeouts while retiring all six batters faced. For this point of the spring, he was pleased.
“I’m just trying to throw strikes right now, hit the mitt,” he said. “If anything, put it more over the plate than inside or outside. That’s what happened today, I just threw mostly fastballs. I threw two changeups, and the rest were fastballs.”
The left-hander said he still needs to work on his stamina, but his arm strength was good.
“This is a good starting point,” he said. “I couldn’t have asked for anything more than that in the first outing. Get six outs, get some confidence. Nobody hit it too hard off me, so that’s good.”
Beachy pitched a perfect fifth before allowing three hits in the sixth including Daniel Murphy’s two-run double.