Vivlamore reporting from Florida.
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – The timing could not have been better for Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez to make his point with a young prospect.
A day before Chipper Jones announced that 2012 would be his last season, Gonzalez reminded Joey Terdoslavich that the third baseman was nearing the end of his career.
The Braves re-assigned Terdoslavich to the minor leagues on Thursday, the day Jones made his announcement. On Wednesday, in Viera for a Grapefruit League game against the Nationals, Gonzalez had a conversation with the player who could be Jones’ heir apparent.
“I said ‘You know, No. 10, you don’t know how long he is going to play for. He’s 40 years old,’” Gonzalez recalled.
Gonzalez said Terdoslavich will likely start the season at Class AA but could begin at Class AAA. The plan is for the infielder to move back to third base. He spent most of last season at first base at high-Class A Lynchburg, where he hit .286 with 20 home runs and a league-record 52 doubles. He played primarily third base in high school and college.
“I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t do it,” Gonzalez said of Terdoslavich playing third base.
Also Thursday, the Braves re-assigned catcher Christian Bethancourt, right-hander Adam Russell and infielder Ernesto Mejia. On Friday, they re-assigned left-hander Dusty Hughes.
Gonzalez said it won’t be long until Terdoslavich and Bethancourt are major-leaguers. He said Bethancourt already had the defensive ability to play in the big leagues.
“It’s a matter of them letting us know they are ready,” Gonzalez said. “What I mean by that, when they tear up the minor leagues and there is no other place to send them than the big leagues, then we’ll see them. From what I’ve seen here, it’s close.”
General manager Frank Wren said it’s too early to think about who will take over for Jones.
“We are going to have to be thinking about another third baseman and another middle-of-the-lineup hitter, but that is for another day,” he said.
Left-hander Mike Minor had his first rough outing of the spring, giving up his first Grapefruit League runs Friday against the Mets. Minor worked 4 2/3 innings and allowed three runs, two earned, three hits and four walks. He struck out three. Minor had not allowed a run over 14 innings in his previous four starts.
“The fastball I’ve had that every game, for the most part, and today I couldn’t really locate it,” Minor said. “When I did, I tried to throw a strike and throw it down the middle and they would hit it and hit it pretty hard. … I got lucky and got out of some jams. Pretty much the only pitch I had today was the change-up.”
Minor was scheduled to pitch six innings but couldn’t make it out of the fifth.
“It was one of the days I’m glad I had because it’s spring training and I think you need those games where you don’t have everything and you have to get through it,” Minor said. “It was good practice to get out there and struggle a little bit.”
Despite the outing, Minor has a spot in the season-opening rotation, Gonzalez said.
“I’m ready to say Minor is in the rotation, and not necessarily the fifth [spot],” Gonzalez said. “I’m not ready to say he’s our fifth. He might be better than that.”
That leaves right-hander Randall Delgado, who will start Saturday’s game against the Blue Jays, and Julio Teheren to battle for the spot in the rotation until Tim Hudson returns from off-season back surgery, according to Gonzalez. There is also a possibility that the Braves will start with a four-man rotation the first part of the season, not needing a fifth starter until April 17.
Braves down Mets
Dan Uggla went 3-for-4, including a two-run homer, and had three RBIs and the Braves pounded out 11 hits in a 9-4 victory over the Mets at Champion Stadium Friday. It was Uggla’s fifth home run of the spring. Michael Bourn (one RBI) and Martin Prado (two RBIs) each went 2-for-4, including back-to-back triples in the first inning.
Yohan Flande got the win for the Braves (7-13-3).
First baseman Freddie Freeman is day-to-day with a left hand soft tissue contusion after being hit by a pitch in the fourth inning. Right-hander Anthony Varvaro left with a right pectoral strain. Reliver Jonny Venters has been held out for several days with a sore shoulder.
On the mend
Gonzalez said he expects Hudson to pitch on April 2 – either in the final exhibition game against the Mets or in a minor-league game.
“We’ll get to see him face some hitters,” Gonzalez said.
The plan is for Hudson to make his regular-season debut, barring a setback, during the team’s four-game series against the Pirates April 27-30.
Jack Wilson played his second minor-league game Friday in his return from a strained right calf. The plan is for the shortstop to play additional games on Saturday and Sunday, working up to seven innings, before joining the big club after Monday’s off day. Gonzalez said Wilson, again barring a setback, will be ready for the start of the regular season.
Delgado will be followed by Christian Martinez against the Blue Jays. Most Braves regulars will be making the trip except Michael Bourn, Uggla and Jones. … Kris Medlen threw five innings of one-hit ball in a minor-league game Friday. He struck out one in throwing 45 pitches.