In his team’s last tuneup game before opening the season Monday night against Philadelphia, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez wanted his team to get some reps, but to stay healthy.
Gonzalez got all that and more Saturday afternoon when the Braves defeated the organization’s Future Stars 10-0 in an exhibition game at Trustmark Park, the home of the Braves’ Double-A affiliate. It was the first time the Braves have played a game in Mississippi.
“The score didn’t matter. I was looking at the at-bats,” Gonzalez said. “We got some good quality at-bats. Danny Uggla got some nice at bats. You don’t want anybody getting hurt the last game of spring training, and we didn’t do that. We got our bats; we got everything we wanted to do accomplished. So now we go forward.”
The Braves got off to a fast start in the first inning, scoring five runs against left-hander Sean Gilmartin. Gonzalez said it was nice to see his players hit well against a lefty, with Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee on tap in the three-game series against the Phillies.
Uggla led the way with two hits and three RBIs, off a three-run homer in the first. It’s hard to put a lot of stock into a strong exhibition performance, but Uggla likes where he is heading into the season.
“We are ready to go,” he said. “We are excited every time we have games like this, or some games we had in the spring. It kind of lets you know how talented this lineup can be.”
Gattis shines: With catcher Brian McCann on the disabled list with a shoulder injury, players such as Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird have an opportunity to shine. Laird will be the opening-day starter, but Gattis was the one that impressed the crowd Saturday.
Gattis drilled a 3-0 fastball to the parking lot behind left field, a shot that was the talk of the clubhouse after the game. It was yet another display of ridiculous power for Gattis, who is making a reputation for himself as a hard-nosed, old-school player.
“He’s a fearless hitter,” former Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “He’s hit everywhere he’s been. He’s had an unbelievable spring. I can’t pick any bad thing about him behind the plate. We sat up there and watched all these games. He blocks the ball great. He’s a good target for the pitchers. He’s an example of how to play the game hard.”
Said Gonzalez: “He’s a throwback kind of player. No batting gloves. No wrist bands. He just puts together quality at-bats.”
Cox loses again: In his second year as manager of the Future Stars, Cox lost again to his replacement and protege, Gonzalez.
Cox said the game didn’t go the way he hoped, but that it ultimately was beneficial for the organization.
“The Braves parent club got a lot out of it today,” he said. “Looks as if to me they are ready for the season to start Monday. They are going to be good.”
Etc.: Mike Minor gave up two hits in four scoreless innings for the win. … Closer Craig Kimbrel struggled in an inning of work, giving up a double, single and walk before striking out the side.