Sims sees tough spring debut as learning experience

Right-hander allows five runs over 1 2/3 innings vs. Phillies

Sims sees tough spring debut as learning experience

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- When the Braves aligned their rotation for the first week of the Grapefruit League season, they took advantage of a chance to subject some of their young prospects to a big league setting with the understanding that they could benefit from the experience regardless of the results.

After seeing their current top pitching prospect Sean Newcomb struggle with his control against the Tigers on Thursday, the Braves saw their former top pitching prospect Lucas Sims endure his own humbling experience during Friday's 12-11 loss to the Phillies at Bright House Field.

"The results aren't what I wanted," Sims said. "The competitive side of me wanted to do better. I wanted to show what I could do. But I also went out there and learned what I need to do to improve."

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The game was decided when Jason Hursh, who was brought over from Minor League camp to serve as an extra for the day, surrendered a three-run walk-off homer to former Braves Minor Leaguer Cedric Hunter.

But while Hursh is one of Atlanta's former first round selections who is trending in the wrong direction, Sims has rekindled the promise he possessed when the Braves took him in the first round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. He ranks as Atlanta's eighth-best pitching prospect according to MLBPipeline.com and he is the only member of this group who was acquired before the front office was altered after Frank Wren's dismissal as general manager.

"I know the ballplayer that I am and I know that I'm better than what I showed today," said Sims, who will likely begin the season with Double-A Mississippi. "I don't necessarily worry about what other [prospects] do. I try to stay within myself."

Making his first start in a big league Spring Training game, Sims allowed five earned runs and three hits over 1 2/3 innings. The 21-year-old right-hander pitched around a walk during a scoreless first inning, but he paid the price for the two free passes he issued during what became a seven-run second inning for the Phillies.

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Sims did not show any signs of intimidation as he opened the bottom of the second inning by striking out Ryan Howard. But the resulting emotions seemed to get the best of him as he then issued a four-pitch walk to Cedric Hunter, who advanced to second base on a grounder and scored on a Darnell Sweeney single.

Sims then issued another walk and surrendered two hits, including Tyler Goeddel's two-out, two-run double that followed a disputed check swing call on a two-strike pitch.

"I got away from being aggressive in the zone a little bit and got a little too nitpicky," Sims said. "I also maybe tried to do too much. I'll learn from it the next time. It was a good experience."

• While making his spring debut on Friday, Arodys Vizcaino looked much like he had while serving as Atlanta's closer for last season's final two months. The hard-throwing right-hander topped out at 100 mph with his fastball and struck out the only three batters he faced.

Braves go ahead on error

• Playing for the first time since he recorded four extra-base hits (two triples, a double and a homer) against the Orioles on Wednesday, Mallex Smith drew a bases-loaded, four-pitch walk during Friday's eighth inning. Smith's only other plate appearance came with the game tied and two outs in the ninth inning. His sharp grounder led to a Sweeney throwing error that allowed the Braves to cap a four-run ninth and take a 11-9 lead.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. Listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.