ATLANTA -- Ten-time Gold Glove Award winner Andruw Jones says Cristian Pache is already the best defensive outfielder in the Braves organization. Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox described the 19-year-old center fielder as one of the most dynamic defensive players he has ever seen in the outfield.The fans who
ATLANTA -- Ten-time Gold Glove Award winner Andruw Jones says Cristian Pache is already the best defensive outfielder in the Braves organization. Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox described the 19-year-old center fielder as one of the most dynamic defensive players he has ever seen in the outfield.
The fans who watched the Braves' 5-4 win over the Braves Futures Stars at SunTrust Park on Tuesday night might have been misled to believe Pache's greatest asset is his power potential. Batting leadoff for the Futures Stars, the talented young outfielder homered twice off Braves starter Sean Newcomb.
Hitting a pair of homers off a Major Leaguer in a big league stadium would be an incredible experience for any prospect who has never played above the Class A level. For Pache, the accomplishment proved to be both exhilarating and unfamiliar. He has never homered over 689 at-bats through his first two professional seasons.
"I'm very happy, this is definitely one of the best games I've ever had," Pache said through an interpreter. "To have two home runs in one game, that's never happened to me before. I'm just glad it happened."
Making his final preparations to enter the season as Atlanta's fourth starter, Newcomb allowed six hits and issued a pair of walks over 4 2/3 innings. All three runs he allowed were accounted for by Pache, who hit a two-run homer in the third inning and added a solo shot in the fifth.
"Today was a little different," Newcomb said. "It was just a little lack of intensity going out against a bunch of guys I know, and there wasn't too much in the crowd. But I feel good about everything overall, especially the fastball. That's what I live off of. It's feeling good, so that makes me feel good."
Before the Braves acquired Ryan Flaherty this week, Rio Ruiz had stood as the favorite to serve as the primary third baseman until Johan Camargo returns from the disabled list next week. But Ruiz no longer appears to be a lock to be placed on the Opening Day roster, which will likely be announced Wednesday.
Flaherty has served as the starting third baseman in both of the exhibition games that have been played since he joined the Braves on Monday. He could find himself back in that same role for Thursday afternoon's Opening Day matchup against Philadelphia's Aaron Nola.
Camargo could be activated from the disabled list before the Braves open a three-game road series against the Rockies on April 6. The Braves could opt to have Flaherty and Charlie Culberson share third-base duties through the season's first six games. If the team goes this route, there is a chance Ruiz will begin the season with Triple-A Gwinnett.
Ruiz rebounded from the early struggles he had during this year's Grapefruit League season, but he went 0-for-10 with five strikeouts over his final four games of the exhibition season.
If Ruiz is not placed on the Opening Day roster, switch-hitter Danny Santana or Lane Adams could fill the final roster spot reserved for a position player. Both players are out of options, but Santana could start the season with Gwinnett because he signed a Minor League contract.
Soaking it in
When Mike Soroka took the mound to start for the Braves Future Stars, he had Ronald Acuna Jr. in left field, Dustin Peterson in right field and Austin Riley at third base. There is at least a possibility that each of these players could be in the same Atlanta lineup at some point this year.
"We came out before [batting practice] and I got to be with some of my buddies I've been with the past three years in the Braves organization," Soroka said. "There's obviously an understanding we all have the talent to do that, but it's about keeping the process real and making sure we take everything pitch by pitch and compete."
Soroka allowed consecutive singles to Ender Inciarte and Ozzie Albies to begin the bottom of the first. He then induced a Freddie Freeman groundout before concluding his one-inning stint with consecutive strikeouts of Kurt Suzuki and Culberson. Inciarte scored on a wild pitch to account for the only run allowed by Soroka, who could join Atlanta's rotation within the first half of the regular season.
Acuna's lone hit in three at-bats was a third-inning single that came off the bat at 115.1 mph, per Statcast™. Riley added a double in the top of the third, and Peterson highlighted the bottom of the third with a diving catch of Freeman's sharp liner.
Julio Teheran will take the mound when the Braves open the regular season Thursday against the Phillies at SunTrust Park at 4:10 p.m. ET. Teheran will become the first pitcher in Atlanta history to make five consecutive Opening Day starts.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.