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Lucas Sims gets mixed results in first spring start

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – After the disappointment of his 2016 season and particularly his first stint in Triple-A, Braves minor league pitcher Lucas Sims is trying to re-establish himself as a highly regarded prospect.

The way the former Brookwood High School start sees it, the project begins above the neck.

“I did a lot of thinking this offseason, a lot of self-evaluation and really kind of worked on between the ears a little bit,” Sims said Friday, after allowing four hits, two runs and no walks with two strikeouts in three innings of a Grapefruit League start against the Mets at Champion Stadium.

The Braves got home runs from Brandon Phillips, Matt Tuiasosopo and Adonis Garcia in the 5-2 win.

He’s not a candidate for the opening-day rotation, but Sims, 22, got a start after the Braves decided to pitch veteran knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in a minor league intrasquad game Friday, rather than have the veteran knuckleballer face a National League East rival he might see four to six times against this season.

Sims pitched in two spring-training games before Friday and has given up eight hits and four runs in seven innings, with no walks with seven strikeouts.

After giving up three hits and two runs to the first five batters Friday, including a Michael Conforto double, Sims recorded seven outs in his last seven batters, giving up one hit in that span and immediately inducing a ground-ball double play.

“I kind of got it handed to me a lot last year,” Sims said, “and I wanted to strengthen my mind — mental toughness — and show what I’m capable of. Show that I can learn from last year and I’m capable of better things.”

A first-round draft pick out of Brookwood in 2012, Sims hasn’t pitched in the majors and was a combined 7-11 with a 4.40 ERA in 28 games (27 starts) in Double-A and Triple-A in 2016, including 2-6 with a 7.92 ERA in 11 games (10 starts) at Triple-A Gwinnett.

“I expected a little bit more out of myself (Friday), but there’s some positives and some negatives,” he said. “Take that and learn from it, move on to whenever I get to pitch again. … I went into the game trying to be aggressive. That was my mindset — be aggressive, pound the zone. I could have executed a little bit better.”

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