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McCarthy 'spot on' in scoreless Braves debut

Acuna records first two-hit game; Allard keeps Mets quiet over two frames
MLB.com @mlbbowman

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Whether he had been injured all of last season or healthy enough to remain in the Dodgers' rotation through the World Series, Brandon McCarthy is at a stage of his career where his primary objective is to get through his first Spring Training start with the satisfaction of knowing he has something left in the tank.

McCarthy passed that test and made a good impression with his new employer as he completed three scoreless innings in his Grapefruit League debut during Wednesday afternoon's 6-4 loss to the Mets at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex.

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Whether he had been injured all of last season or healthy enough to remain in the Dodgers' rotation through the World Series, Brandon McCarthy is at a stage of his career where his primary objective is to get through his first Spring Training start with the satisfaction of knowing he has something left in the tank.

McCarthy passed that test and made a good impression with his new employer as he completed three scoreless innings in his Grapefruit League debut during Wednesday afternoon's 6-4 loss to the Mets at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex.

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"He was spot on with everything," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He was pretty efficient. He was real good."

McCarthy got off to a good start last year, and then he battled mechanical issues after injuring his left shoulder while lifting weights in May. He returned to pitch out of the Dodgers' bullpen in late September, and he was healthy enough to be added to the World Series roster.

Pitching in a game for the first time since allowing George Springer's decisive homer in Game 2 of the Fall Classic, McCarthy retired the first four batters he faced, including three via strikeout. He surrendered a single and a walk in the second inning, then retired each of the next five batters.

McCarthy's efficiency helped him successfully lobby to pitch through the third inning. The Braves' starters are usually limited to two innings in their first start.

"I asked for another inning," McCarthy said. "I hate that one-, two-innings outing. It feels like you're not getting anything accomplished. Getting back out there for the third inning was nice after getting a little tired in the second."

McCarthy has comfortably adapted to his new role with the Braves, who acquired him via the financially motivated deal that sent Matt Kemp to the Dodgers in December. The 34-year-old right-hander could prove to be a valuable mentor in Atlanta's young rotation.

Asked if he was pleased with the fact his fastball sat between 91-92 mph during this first outing, the witty and realistic McCarthy responded, "As long as it's something where I haven't hit the cliff, that's good news."

Video: ATL@HOU: Acuna retires Kemp to end the 2nd

Heating up

As the Braves took batting practice before Wednesday's game, third-base coach Ron Washington said it looked like top prospect Ronald Acuna was starting to feel more relaxed and ready to show his tremendous potential.

Washington's words proved to be prophetic, as a few hours later, Acuna notched his first two-hit game of the spring season. The much-hyped 20-year-old outfielder recorded a fifth-inning single off Paul Sewald and a go-ahead two-run single in the seventh off Jacob Rhame.

"The more he plays, the more he'll settle in," Snitker said. "I'm sure the anxiousness and adrenaline rush he's feeling will become more of the norm. His batting practice was really good today. I think he just needs some at-bats."

Acuna, who ranks No. 2 on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 Prospects list, has three hits within his past six at-bats and is now 3-for-13 during the Grapefruit League season. He is scheduled to be in the lineup for the split-squad team that will play against the Tigers in Lakeland on Thursday afternoon.

Video: ATL@NYM: Allard gets Gonzalez to fly out, ending 6th

Allard's rebound

While he remains in big league camp, the Braves want to provide Kolby Allard, their top pitching prospect, as many opportunities as possible to grow more accustomed to pitching with a little added pressure.

The 20-year-old Allard pitched around a leadoff walk as he completed a scoreless inning against the Mets in his debut on Friday. He walked two of the first three batters faced on Wednesday, but he managed to complete two scoreless innings.

"He had one outing the other day and was kind of a little scattered," Snitker said. "It was good that he could get back out there and be down in the strike zone. He's a young kid who got amped up. That's not his M.O. He's been a strike machine."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

Roster battle

Because he is out of options, Josh Ravin has an advantage as he competes for one of the final bullpen spots. But the right-hander certainly didn't help his bid on Wednesday when he surrendered three consecutive two-out hits, including Arnaldo Berrios' two-run homer during New York's three-run ninth inning.

Meanwhile, Jesse Biddle enhanced his bid to win a bullpen spot as a dark-horse candidate. Biddle surrendered one hit during a scoreless eighth inning. The lefty, who was the Phillies' first-round Draft pick in 2010, has impressed with the arm strength he's shown while not allowing a run in either of his first two appearances.

"That's been nice to see," Snitker said. "It's a good live young arm."

Injury report

Veteran catcher Chris Stewart tweaked his left groin muscle as he attempted to stretch a single into a double during Tuesday's game against the Pirates. The ailment is expected to be minor, but he'll likely be held out of games through at least the upcoming weekend.

Up next

The Braves will play their first split-squad games of the season on Thursday afternoon. Sean Newcomb will make his second start of the spring and resume his rotation bid when he starts the game against the Tigers in Lakeland. Ender Inciarte is expected to be in the lineup for the home game against the Mets behind Matt Wisler. First pitch for both games is 1:05 p.m. ET on Gameday Audio.

Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.

Atlanta Braves, Ronald Acuna, Brandon McCarthy