Posted: 6:16 pm Thursday, March 20th, 2014

Santana, team pleased with pitcher’s Braves debut 

By David O'Brien

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – On the same mound that Kris Medlen walked off 12 days earlier while clinching his elbow in pain, the pitcher signed to replace him made his Braves debut Thursday.

It was only two innings, but Ervin Santana provided a few glimpses of why the Braves felt lucky the right-hander was still unsigned when starters Medlen and Brandon Beachy sustained season-ending elbow injuries in consecutive games March 9-10.

Eight days after signing a one-year, $14.1 million free-agent contract, Santana was charged with two hits and one run in a 7-6 loss to the Mets at Tradition Field. He threw 14 strikes in 22 pitches, and might’ve gotten through without any damage if Eric Young Jr. hadn’t surprised him by dropping down a bunt single to start the first inning.

“I thought it was a good outing for him,” said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez, who plans to work Santana into the rotation during the second week of the regular season. “He hasn’t pitched in a while, came to camp a little behind. And he did a nice job. You can tell he’s a professional. His secondary pitches were really good, especially the second inning.”

Santana’s fastball hovered in the 93-94 mph range in the first inning (topping out at 95 mph) and 90-91 mph in the second inning. He threw several sharp sliders, some sinkers with good movement, and at least a couple of quality change-ups. Santana was pleased.

“First outing in the National League, it’s very good,” said the former American League All-Star, who also has a no-hitter on his resume and went 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 211 innings last season for the Royals. “I’m very happy with the performance today.”

Young surprised him by dropping down a bunt to start the first inning. Santana ran to field it near the first-base line and bounced a throw to first base (replays appeared to show Young was out anyway, but he was called safe). Ruben Tejada followed with a single to left field before David Wright’s sacrifice fly.

Young induced an inning-ending double play grounder by Curtis Granderson and pitched a perfect second inning with a ground out and two fly outs.

The Braves haven’t announced pitching plans beyond Sunday, but Santana will make one more Grapefruit League start – Tuesday against Detroit would be on regular rest – and then presumably pitch in at least two minor league games before being activated and added to the Braves rotation.

Gonzalez said the Braves could add him as soon as April 9 in the eighth game of the regular season, but would more likely wait until April 12, the 11th game and first time they would have to need a fifth starter because of two off days in the early schedule. Gonzalez said they want to make sure he has time to build arm strength and prepare without rushing.

“I just take it one day at a time and see what happens,” said Santana, adding that the Braves haven’t given him a specific timetable, and that his goals for his next start are simple: “Just throw strikes, keep the ball down. That’s the main key.”

His first week with the Braves was everything Santana hoped it would be.

“Yeah, everybody’s been very nice to me,” he said. “That’s one of the keys, when you have good teammates everything’s good.”

With Medlen and Beachy out, and Mike Minor and Gavin Floyd not expected to join the rotation until late April and early May, respectively, the Braves will open the season with a rotation of Julio Teheran, 37-year-old Freddy Garcia, second-year left-hander Alex Wood and rookie David Hale, probably in that order.

Teheran is in line to start opening day March 31 at Milwaukee, which the Braves are expected to make official Friday.

Once they get Minor and Floyd back from the disabled list, the Braves could move Hale and possibly another of those pitchers from the opening-day rotation to the bullpen.

Etc. The Upton brothers, Justin and B.J., had two hits apiece and three RBIs between them. Justin drove in two runs and had a potential first-inning home run taken away by center fielder Juan Lagares’ leaping catch with his glove at the top of the wall. Triple-A first baseman Ernesto Mejia was next up and hit a two-run homer, his second of the spring…. Five of seven Mets runs (and five of 10 hits) came again minor league pitchers David Bromberg and Eric Pfisterer, who recorded two outs apiece. They were among those brought from Braves minor league camp to fill out the travel roster Thursday.

8 comments
BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

Forgot to mention J-Hey.................looking good swinging that bat and running bases man!..................keep it up and tell your buddy Freddie to get that finger better..............see you guys in the Big ATL soon!

BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

The way Teheran and Wood have been pitching this spring they should be #1 and #2 respectively.............I don't know how Garcia could even be considered for the #2 spot.............if he pitches against another teams #2's he won't win many games this year!

BradleyBreeze
BradleyBreeze

Santana not too bad yesterday...........velocity in the low 90's.........looked like mostly fastballs pitched for the 2 innings........fly ball outs..............J up looked good swinging the bat and also BJ looked ok..........GOOD SIGNS!

Teddy_B
Teddy_B

Wow, we are really starting the season with Freddy Garcia as our #2 pitcher in the rotation...rough times in ATL for sure! I can't wait to start getting some of these other arms back to help lift us up, Minor and Floyd are going to help tremendously if they don't have any setbacks. Santana might not be so bad after all, I was thinking that it would be a desperation move that wouldn't pan out so well but he has pitched decent in the AL for years so a move to the NL might work out really nice for him. I sure hope so, when Beachy went down I was pretty much setting myself up to accept a losing season from our guys. Things are starting to work out though.


Hey, at least Jason Heyward is still a beast and honestly in the NL I could see him and Andrew McCutchen competing for the MVP Award. It is time for J-Hey to have a massive breakout year and put all the pieces together. Wish we signed him for longer than 2 years, if he leaves we might be in trouble because other than Lipka I can't even name another minor league OF'er we have waiting in the wings. Among our OF candidates I am almost 100% sure none of them are 5-tool monsters like J-Hey is. 

Opening Day is right around the corner, folks! Time to kiss the cold harsh winter GOODBYE and watch some ball! I really can't wait and I'm jealous most of you live in warmer climates, this winter was BRUTAL in Pittsburgh.

58Supersports
58Supersports

I tried to buy a Santana jersey and they didn't have any?


Mejia's bat off bench would be a plus!

otey71
otey71

It's "clutched" not "clinched".

_CraZy_
_CraZy_

@58Supersports There's a reason Mejia is 28 years old and yet to make it onto a ML roster.  He's very limited which is not something we need on our bench.   

CowbellHell
CowbellHell

@_CraZy_ @58Supersports I agree completely on Mejia, dude swings for the fence on every strike and is a cigar store indian at first base.  He would never see the field so please enough about this guy... We have the best first baseman in baseball.


Give me Terdo's bat off the bench please