Russell hit hard in relief of solid Foltynewicz vs. Yankees
By Mark Bowman and Paul Casella
MLB.com |@mlbbowman |
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Masahiro Tanaka produced his second scoreless appearance of the spring and Brian McCann accounted for one of the two home runs James Russell surrendered as the Yankees claimed a 12-5 win over the Braves at Champion Stadium on Wednesday night.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Tanaka pitches into the fourth inning: Tanaka was once again mostly dominant, though his night did come to an end when he served up a hard-hit two-out double to Freddie Freeman in the fourth inning. Tanaka has still retired 16 of the 18 batters he's faced this spring, while allowing only two of those hitters -- Freeman on his double and Zoilo Almonte on a third-inning flyout -- to hit the ball out of the infield in the air. He also notched three more strikeouts, bringing his total to five over 5 2/3 innings this spring.
Folty shows some promise: After looking more like a thrower than a pitcher in his previous two Grapefruit League starts, Foltynewicz showed why the Braves are hoping he proves worthy of filling one of their two vacant rotation spots. The hard-throwing top prospect located his plus fastball and commanded his curveball while notching four strikeouts and surrendering three hits (all singles). If he pitches this effectively during his final three spring starts, he will likely begin the year in Atlanta's rotation.
McCann homers against former club: The Yankees put on quite a power display, highlighted by McCann's towering two-run homer to right field against his former team. McCann's fifth-inning blast came one inning after Drew had hit a two-run shot of his own -- his first homer of the spring -- to nearly the same location.
K.J. showing life: Kelly Johnson, who joined McCann as one of the "Baby Braves" that helped Atlanta win the 2005 National League East, has started to show some life with his bat. Johnson doubled against the Red Sox on Tuesday and hit a three-run homer off Jose Ramirez during Wednesday's fifth inning. Johnson's bid to earn a spot on Atlanta's bench had been looking bleak.
"I don't know if it was an ejection or not. [Home-plate umpire Joe West] asked for another catcher. He said, 'Let's get another catcher in here.' It is what it is." -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, when asked about West's casual ejection of catcher A.J. Pierzynski during the top of the sixth inning.
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Though McCann enjoyed some success against his former team in this spring game, the Braves remain the only Major League team that he has never faced during the regular season. That could change this summer, as the Yankees are scheduled to travel to Atlanta for a three-game set against the Braves from Aug. 28-30.
INJURY UPDATES Markakis getting closer to return: Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said the team's medical staff might soon give Nick Markakis a final clearance to participate in all baseball activities. Markakis, who underwent neck surgery in December, has spent the past couple of weeks conditioning and re-strengthening his body while being limited to throwing and some hitting exercises. The veteran outfielder believes he has time to compile enough plate appearances in Grapefruit League and Minor League games to be ready for Opening Day.
Ellsbury out at least a week: Though Yankees outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury was already expected to sit out the next couple of games, it was announced just before Wednesday's game that he will actually be shut down from all baseball activities for approximately one week after an MRI exam confirmed a mild oblique strain.
The Braves are in the midst of a three-day stretch, during which they will audition each of the candidates -- Foltynewicz, Eric Stults, Wandy Rodriguez and Manny Banuelos -- for their final rotation spots. Banuelos, who is a longshot candidate, will start Thursday afternoon's game against the Marlins. Christian Bethancourt is expected to be behind the plate for Atlanta. Bethancourt has impressed with the increased power potential he has shown while preparing for his first year as a regular starter at the Major League level. The 1:05 p.m. ET contest can be seen live on MLB.TV.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.