Notes: Anderson K's 9; Opening Day lineup?

March 20th, 2021

NORTH PORT, Fla. -- A little more than two weeks away from his first regular season start, appears ready to build on the immediate success he enjoyed last year.

Anderson was in total control before he faltered during the fifth inning of a 4-2 win over the Twins on Friday night at CoolToday Park. But the rough ending didn’t tarnish the strong impression the young hurler made while striking out nine batters, including eight of the first 13 he faced.

“I feel great with where I’m at,” Anderson said. “I think my pitch mix is working well, and I’m throwing a lot of strikes. I’m happy. I think I’m in a good spot moving forward.”

Anderson faced the minimum through the first three innings and didn’t allow a hit before surrendering three straight to begin the fifth inning. Armed with his usual effective changeup and seemingly improved curveball, the 22-year-old right-hander ended up allowing four hits and two runs over 4 2/3 innings.

“We need every bit of Spring Training to stretch these guys out,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “He got up to 75 pitches or at least close to it, which is exactly what we wanted. He’ll be a little bit stronger next time.”

This marked the first time this year Anderson pitched into the fifth inning. He threw 3 1/3 innings during his previous Grapefruit League start on March 13.

“Each time you add some pitches, it can tax you a little bit,” Anderson said. “But I felt pretty good in that last inning. They just squared some balls up. That’s just the way it goes.”

Anderson made a triumphant arrival last year when he beat Gerrit Cole and the Yankees during his debut on Aug. 26. He carried a no-hit bid into the sixth inning that day and ended up posting a 1.95 ERA over six regular-season starts. He then worked 17 2/3 scoreless innings in the postseason before allowing his first runs in the third inning of Game 7 of the National League Championship Series.

MLB Pipeline ranks Anderson as the game’s No. 18 prospect.

Opening Day lineup?
With Fox Sports South producing its first broadcast of the year on Friday, Snitker provided a glimpse of what his Opening Day lineup might look like.

was back in the leadoff spot, and was sandwiched between and in the No. 3 hole. Freeman batted second at the end of last year, but with the designated hitter going away and the pitcher returning to the lineup, the Braves think he’ll be more valuable back in the third spot.

“We’re getting a feel for what it’s going to look like, starting out,” said Snitker, who has made it clear he’ll be willing to alter the lineup’s makeup if necessary at some point.

batted ninth in this contest. But once the Braves stop using the DH and start allowing their pitchers to hit this spring, Pache could find himself in the eighth spot.

Of course, Pache has to first win the center-field job. The highly regarded outfielder, ranked as MLB Pipeline’s No. 12 prospect has gone 2-for-19 and hasn’t recorded a hit since March 7. Before walking in the fifth inning Friday, he had struck out in five of his six plate appearances.

Looking like himself again
Left-hander recorded a pair of strikeouts while working a perfect seventh inning on Friday. The 2019 All-Star reliever has struck out nine of the past 13 batters he has faced.

Smith seems to be the most likely candidate to get a majority of the Braves’ save opportunities. The veteran was a successful closer for the Giants in ’18 and ’19. After missing all of Summer Camp because of COVID-19 last year, he struggled to get going. Smith posted a 5.91 ERA through his first 11 appearances and a 1.67 ERA over his final seven appearances.