LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Ender Inciarte has statistically made more improbable catches than any other Major League outfielder over the past two seasons. But his range is just one of the attributes that has helped him win a Gold Glove Award after each of those campaigns.Inciarte's strong and accurate
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Ender Inciarte has statistically made more improbable catches than any other Major League outfielder over the past two seasons. But his range is just one of the attributes that has helped him win a Gold Glove Award after each of those campaigns.
Inciarte's strong and accurate arm seemed to be in midseason form on Monday, as he recorded an outfield assist while making his Grapefruit League season debut during the Braves' 2-1 win over the Nationals at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex. Inciarte's throw from center field retired Andrew Stevenson attempting to go from first to third base on Matt Reynolds' second-inning single.
<p.> Inciarte is tied with Boston's Jackie Bradley Jr. for the second-most outfield assists (19) made by a center fielder since the start of 2016. Cincinnati's Billy Hamilton is in the lead with 22 assists. </p.>
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"[Inciarte's] arm might not be the most powerful, but his accuracy and release is unbelievable," Snitker said. "He closed on that ball great. It was a mishit ball. I didn't even think [Inciarte should throw to third] for a minute, thinking we should keep the double play in order. It's great to see him do that this early, too."
Inciarte spent most of the offseason in the Orlando area and took advantage of the chance to work with speed guru Tom Shaw, who trains professional athletes from various sports at the same complex where the Braves have held Spring Training since 1998.
While the work with Shaw combined with the arrival of new first-base coach Eric Young Sr. might increase Inciarte's stolen-base total, additional speed might also add to the Braves center fielder's elite range. According to Statcast™, Inciarte leads all Major League outfielders with 47 combined 4-star and 5-star catches over the past two seasons.
Inciarte has always had great instincts and ball-hawking skills. But his Sprint Speed last year was 27.5 feet per second, which ranked 22nd among all center fielders with at least 50 opportunities.
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Moving toward a fresh start
Coming off last year's frustratingly inconsistent season, Julio Teheran spent this offseason attempting to regain a more consistent feel for his slider, which has been his top weapon during the best stretches of his career. At the same time, he says he wants to utilize his changeup more frequently during the upcoming season.
Teheran generated so-so results with his slider and threw just a couple changeups over two scoreless innings in his first start of the year during Monday's win. The Braves right-hander pitched around Victor Robles' first-inning single and benefited from a pair of outfield assists as each of the first three Nationals he faced in the second inning reached safely.
After Inciarte recorded his assist, right fielder Nick Markakis concluded the top of the second by catching Chris Dominguez's fly ball and making an accurate throw to the plate to catch Reynolds attempting to tag and score.
"At the end of the day, it was zeros," Braves catcher Tyler Flowers said. "He's got some things to work on, like everybody. But for the first time out, I thought he was actually pretty good."
The Braves were encouraged when Luiz Gohara completed his bullpen session in pain-free fashion on Monday. The rookie left-hander entered camp as a favorite to win one of the two available rotation spots, but over the past week, he had not been permitted to throw off the mound due to a groin injury he sustained while running.
Gohara will now begin his normal preparations with the hope of being cleared to make his first Grapefruit League start next week. The Braves will not need to have five pitchers in their rotation until April 11. So the big southpaw may still have plenty of time to prepare to make his first start within the regular season's first two weeks.
Peter Moylan took a promising first step toward securing one of Atlanta's bullpen spots, as he recorded a pair of strikeouts and completed a scoreless sixth inning against the Nationals.
Moylan is a favorite to win what appears to be three available bullpen spots. But the one-year deal he received last week was non-guaranteed, which means the Braves will pay him just a fraction of his $575,000 base salary if he is released before the end of Spring Training.
The first five bullpen spots could be filled by Arodys Vizcaino, A.J. Minter, Jose Ramirez, Sam Freeman and Daniel Winkler, who must remain on the active roster for at least 14 days to satisfy his service time as a Rule 5 Draft selectee.
This year's Rule 5 pick, Anyelo Gomez, also strengthened his bullpen bid with his second scoreless appearance of the spring during Monday's win. If Gomez and Moylan fill two of the available spots, the top candidates for the final spot could be Josh Ravin, who is out of options, or long-relief options Chase Whitley and Lucas Sims.
Mike Foltynewicz will make his spring debut when the Braves host the Pirates on Tuesday at 1:05 p.m. ET on Gameday Audio. Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis and Ender Inciarte made their respective spring debuts Monday and are expected to be back in the lineup against Pittsburgh.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.