The Braves returned home to Turner Field Tuesday night for the first of two exhibition games against the Twins, with their Opening Day roster pretty well set and their Opening Day lineup in action, with the exception of David Ross batting for the pitcher.
The one lingering question is the health of Jair Jurrjens and whether he’ll be able to make his first scheduled start on April 6 in Milwaukee. It’s a decision the Braves won’t rush to make.
Originally Jurrjens planned to throw a bullpen session on Monday, but the Braves are playing it cautious with the sore right side which forced Jurrjens out of his last spring training start Thursday against the Blue Jays.
Jurrjens threw some long toss in the outfield during batting practice Tuesday and then moved closer in to throw from 60 feet or so, but still on flat ground. He appeared not to have any problems, though he wasn’t immediately available for comment afterward.
“He’s progressing well,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “We’re just not quite there yet. And we’re intentionally not pushing it because we don’t want to set him back, but he’s progressing.”
The Braves could disable Jurrjens retroactive to March 25, to the day after his last spring start. That would make him eligible to return April 9 during the first home series of the season against the Phillies. They want him to throw a bullpen session before making that call, perhaps in a few days.
“We could literally have him make the Opening Day roster and wait several days before we make that decision, if he’s progressing and he would be able to make a side,” Wren said. “We have some flexibility there.”
If Jurrjens has to skip a start or two, the Braves are likely to call on Mike Minor, who lost out on the battle for the fifth starter’s job to Brandon Beachy and is headed to Triple-A.
Teheran to Gwinnett?
The Braves minor league rosters haven’t been finalized yet but general manager Frank Wren indicated Tuesday the Braves are strongly considering starting Julio Teheran in Triple-A Gwinnett.
“It’s a projected possibility,” Wren said.
Wren mentioned Teheran, along with Mike Minor and Rodrigo Lopez, as potential members of the Gwinnett rotation, in explaining why the Braves decided to assign Kenshin Kawakami to Double-A Mississippi. They want to keep the Triple-A rotation open to pitchers who could have an impact in Atlanta this season.
Teheran, the No. 5 overall prospect in Baseball America, was projected by some to open the season in Double-A before moving up to Gwinnett. An impressive spring for Teheran appears to have sped up that timetable.
Braves minor leaguer Mauro Gomez hit a walkoff two-run home run in the 10th off former Brave Chuck James in his first major league at-bat of spring for a 4-2 win over the Twins. Gomez had seen only defensive action in one split-squad game.
“That’s the first time I’ve seen him, that’s a pretty good impression,” Gonzalez said. “I thought we hit the ball hard the whole game at people, and the ball wasn’t carrying because it was cold. But boy, he sure put a charge in one.”
The Braves were shut out for eight innings before rallying for two runs in the ninth to send it to extra innings. Eric Hinske reached on an error, Brooks Conrad got hit by a pitch and Joe Mather and Ed Lucas collected back-to-back hits to cut the Twins lead to 2-1. J.C. Boscan tied it 2-2 with a bases-loaded infield hit off Matt Capps.
Conrad got his first action at second base at Turner Field since last year’s three-error game in the Division Series. He completed a nice 4-3 double play, tagging the runner headed for second before throwing on to first.
All seven relievers in the Braves bullpen got an inning of action. They combined to give up only one earned run (a second run was unearned off Scott Linebrink following a Martin Prado error) in seven innings in their final tune-up of spring.