Bethancourt's homer highlights Braves' rally vs. Tigers
Catcher hits game-tying blast; Foltynewicz allows two runs over 3 2/3 innings in bid for rotation
By Jason Beck & Mark Bowman
LAKELAND, Fla. -- While Alfredo Simon delivered six-plus innings of one-run ball for his best outing this spring, the Braves rallied off Detroit's bullpen, including a Christian Bethancourt game-tying home run and a pair of runs off Joba Chamberlain in the eighth, for a 4-2 Atlanta win Monday at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Yoenis Cespedes' fifth home run of the spring extended Detroit's lead to 2-0 in the fourth inning while Simon was cruising.
The former Reds starter, who hadn't pitched through the fifth inning in any of his previous five starts, pitched into the seventh inning with 81 pitches, his lone run coming on a Freddie Freeman sacrifice fly in the sixth.
Bethancourt's first homer of the spring came off Tigers relief prospect Angel Nesbitt, trying to make Detroit's bullpen for the first time. Four consecutive hits off Chamberlain pushed Atlanta ahead. Chamberlain has struggled to catch up after re-signing with Detroit a week into camp.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Cespedes goes oppo: Before Spring Training began, Tigers president/general manager Dave Dombrowski and manager Brad Ausmus both talked about Yoenis Cespedes' potential to use the opposite field. His fifth home run of the spring went in that direction, sending a Foltynewicz fastball over the right-field fence for a fourth-inning solo shot.
Focused Folty: Mike Foltynewicz kept himself in the rotation mix as he showed better composure while allowing a pair of runs over 3 ⅔ innings. The top pitching prospect responded to Miguel Cabrera's opposite-field double in the third by getting Victor Martinez to strand two with a lazy flyout to left field. He ended his outing by following Cespedes' home run with a strikeout of Alex Avila.
Cabrera takes a tumble: Miguel Cabrera, beginning his second week at first base in his return from right ankle and foot surgery, gave Tigers fans and Ausmus a scare when he toppled over Kelly Johnson trying to tag the Braves hitter on his way to first base. Cabrera got up immediately and was fine, but Ausmus likely had to hold his breath for a split second.
Bethancourt's bat showing promise: As Bethancourt prepares for his first season as Atlanta's primary catcher, he is showing signs he might silence those who have doubted his ability to hit at the Major League level. His opposite-field homer off Nesbitt provided a glimpse of his improved power potential and helped improve his batting average to .306 (11-for-36).
"You've got a guy that is that strong and I throw somewhat hard. If he puts the bat on it, it's going to go a long way. There's nothing you can do about that. You've just got to tip your hat to him." -- Foltynewicz on Cespedes' home run
"You get concerned anytime you see something like that with Miggy or Victor this time of year. You pause for a moment. … I mean, clearly Kelly's not trying to hurt Miggy in any way. He's trying to be safe at first. It's a little surprising that, as long as Kelly's been around, that he would do that in a Spring Training game, but I don't know what his situation is over with Atlanta. He may be trying to make the team, so it's certainly an understandable baseball play. You want to be safe." -- Ausmus on Cabrera's tumble
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Though he has compiled just 16 at-bats since being cleared to return from neck surgery, Nick Markakis ranks second among all Braves with three double-play groundouts.
Braves: Wandy Rodriguez will attempt to secure a rotation spot when the Braves send him to the mound to face the Astros on Tuesday at 6:05 p.m. ET. Rodriguez can opt out of his Minor League deal if he is not guaranteed a Major League roster spot by Wednesday. So, this will be the last time for the Braves to evaluate whether they are willing to take a chance on the veteran southpaw, who saw injuries limit him to 18 starts over the past two years.
Tigers:David Price will make his final Spring Training tuneup before his Opening Day start when the Tigers host the Pirates in a 1:05 p.m. ET contest at Joker Marchant Stadium. Gameday Audio will have the radio broadcast online, as will AM 1270 in Detroit. Price retired the first 10 and last 10 batters he faced last Thursday, allowing three Orioles runs on three hits in between.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.