LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Braves reliever Cory Gearrin gave up two hits but no runs in the sixth inning of Sunday’s 2-2, 10-inning tie against Baltimore, continuing the rookie’s push for a spot on the opening day roster.
The sidearmer has allowed five hits and one unearned run in six appearances, with two walks and five strikeouts in 6-1/3 innings. Gearrin had two strikeouts Sunday and got switch-hitting former Brave Wilson Betemit to pop out with two on to end the inning.
Gearrin struggled mightily against lefty hitters last season, when he pitched in 18 games and lefties scorched him for a .393 average and .514 on-base percentage. Right-handers hit .143 with a .260 OBP.
Applying a tip from pitching coach Roger McDowell, Gearrin took some velocity off his fastball to get more sink, which has worked particularly well against left-handers. Three Toronto lefties went hitless against him Saturday.
The Braves’ bullpen will have the back-end trio of closer Craig Kimbrel and lefties Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty, and two spots will go to Cristhian Martinez and Kris Medlen barring unexpected developments. Top prospect Arodys Vizcaino will miss at least in the beginning of the season with an elbow injury that he’ll have examined Monday by Dr. James Andrews.
That could leave two spots and four likely candidates: Gearrin, Jairo Asencio, Adam Russell and Anthony Varvaro.
Gearrin has had a better spring than the others. Asencio is out of minor league options and would have to clear waivers before he could be sent down. Varvaro has been scored upon in four of his six outings and, allowing 10 hits and six earned runs in 5-2/3 innings.
Manager Fredi Gonzalez reiterated Sunday the team’s plans to have Medlen in the bullpen. Medlen pitched four scoreless innings of one-hit ball against the Mets on Saturday in his second start, but the Braves are getting him stretched out only as a fallback option in case they lose a couple of other starters.
It was eventful afternoon for outfielder Jordan Parraz, a bench candidate who drove in both Braves runs but also made an error in right field to let in the tying run in the eighth inning. Chipper Jones doubled and scored on a Parraz single in the second inning. Parraz grounded out in the seventh to score third-base prospect Joey Terdoslavich, who doubled and advanced on a wild pitch.
The Orioles scored two runs (one earned) in the eighth off Venters, who allowed a leadoff double by L.J. Hoes and RBI single by Manny Machado, the first two batters in the inning. The second run scored when a two-out fly ball bounced off the glove of Parraz, who also had an error Friday on a fly ball in center field that led to an unearned run….
The Braves are 4-1-2 (2 ties) in their past seven games, after going 1-10 in first 11….
Randall Delgado will start for the Braves Monday against Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynne. Julio Teheran, competing with Delgado for a spot in the opening day rotation, is scheduled to pitch the last four innings after Delgado pitches five.