By Brandon Speck/NEMS Daily Journal
PEARL – The Atlanta Braves will concede the fact that by October, they could be atop the Major Leagues in strikeouts.
That’s OK as long as their potentially powerful offense produces enough to overcome that stat.
The offense looked strong in its final tuneup Saturday at Trustmark Park, a 10-0 Atlanta win over the organization’s Future Stars.
“The lineup is very strong,” said former manager Bobby Cox, who led the Future Stars. “It’s a lineup that’s going to strike out a little bit, but they’re going to hit home runs. They’re going to steal bases. It’s still going to all come down to pitching, but the lineup is talented.”
Atlanta, which is without the now-retired Chipper Jones on the roster for the first time since 1992, will open the season tonight against Philadelphia.
The pitching seems in place, too. Mike Minor allowed two leadoff hits Saturday but retired the next 11 through his four innings. It’s a strong starting group that includes former Mississippi State pitcher Paul Maholm.
Dan Uggla and Chris Johnson hit back-to-back home runs in the first inning Saturday, but newcomer catcher Evan Gattis stole the show. Gattis, who not long ago swore off baseball and worked as a janitor and ski lift operator, hit a long home run that cleared the stadium and bounced around the parking lot.
“I played here. I know how hard it is to get one out of here,” Minor said. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen one like that, even in BP.”
Minor provided plenty of defense against the Future Stars, including a few likely to get called up sooner than later.
Joe Terdoslavich was 0 for 3 Saturday, but hit .395 in the spring before being cut last week. Teroslavich is an outfielder, but it’s tough to find room in Turner Field’s outfield with the additions of B.J. and Justin Upton.
Jason Heyward, who had an RBI double Saturday, is still remembered for a memorable home run in his rookie debut’s first at-bat. Gattis could follow with his own tonight. He has proven his bat, but Brian McCann will be a free agent and Gattis has yet to show he can play there every day.
“Obviously we’ve got some new faces and some guys are gone, but everybody here has got one goal and that’s to win,” Maholm said.