Teheran may get 6th straight Opening Day start

Donaldson belts first spring homer; Acuna snaps impressive streak

March 15th, 2019

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- has not been officially informed he will make his sixth consecutive Opening Day start. But when the Braves shuffled their spring rotation coming out of Thursday’s off-day, they arranged it in a way that lines Teheran up to start the March 28 season opener in Philadelphia.

Braves manager Brian Snitker said the club would likely wait a couple more days before making an announcement. In other words, Snitker could make the announcement as early as Sunday, when Teheran is scheduled to start against the Tigers. The two-time All-Star would then oppose Detroit again on March 22 and then be positioned to have an extra day of rest leading into Opening Day.

Teheran would join Warren Spahn as the only pitchers in Braves history to make six consecutive Opening Day starts.

Mike Foltynewicz would have been the Braves’ Opening Day starter, but he has not been cleared to throw off a mound since he experienced right elbow soreness following his Feb. 24 spring debut. Foltynewicz has not experienced any discomfort while playing catch over the past week. But he’ll need to complete at least one side session and throw live batting practice before being cleared to make what would likely be four preparatory starts.

Given Foltynewicz is not expected to make a start before the Braves leave Florida on March 24, there is a chance he will not join Atlanta’s rotation until the latter half of April.

“He’s throwing and he feels good,” Snitker said. “But he’s missed so much time, we’ve got to build him back. It’s going to take time. You’ve got to go through the paces to get back. We’ve just got to be patient.”

Sufficient launch angle

Josh Donaldson certainly didn’t have reason to admire what proved to be his first home run of the spring. The Braves third baseman admitted he was surprised when the line drive he laced off Wei-Yin Chen stayed elevated long enough to clear the left-field fence during the third inning of Friday’s 7-6 loss to the Marlins.

“That ball today was like a two-iron,” Snitker said. “Defensively, he’s moving good and he’s swinging the bat well. If he wants to jump up his at-bats, they’re playing Minor League games, so he can go over there and hit every inning if he feels like he has to do that. But from what I’ve seen, it’s fun to watch him hit.”

Donaldson has gone 2-for-8 and drawn a walk since making his spring debut on March 8. The former American League MVP has been pleased to go through a Spring Training without health concerns for the first time since 2016. He showed good mobility when he charged and grabbed a Brian Anderson grounder to end the top of the second.

“[My swing] is getting closer,” Donaldson said. “I don’t put a ton of stock in what happens. It’s just more of a process of letting me get through my routine every day. It was nice to have results, but I’m not living and dying off that right now.”

Snapped at 10

When Ronald Acuna Jr. lined out to third base to end Friday’s third inning, he snapped his streak of reaching base safely in 10 consecutive plate appearances. Acuna’s streak included two homers, a triple, two doubles, three singles and two walks. Before beginning this hot stretch on Monday, he had recorded four hits through his first 20 Grapefruit League at-bats.

More of the same

After issuing four walks while allowing seven hits and four runs over 4 1/3 innings of the loss to the Marlins, Sean Newcomb felt his command would have been better had he been working with what he described as a regular season tempo.

Snitker said this is the time of Spring Training when pitchers begin to battle command issues while dealing with a tired arm. But he’s been troubled by the extended erratic performances produced by the southpaw, who has issued 10 walks and surrendered 12 hits over 12 innings.

“I thought it was good that he got to the fifth [inning] and got his pitch count up,” Snitker said. “That’s what we needed him to do. I wanted him to be a little crisper, but he fought through it."

Bullpen medicals

A.J. Minter has felt fine while playing catch each of the past three days, but Darren O’Day has not been cleared to begin throwing. Minter remains hopeful he’ll be ready for Opening Day. But as time passes, it looks like both relievers could begin the season on the injured list. Neither has pitched in a game since making their respective spring debuts on March 1.

Minter was shut down when he experienced left shoulder tightness after being involved in a car accident. O’Day has been sidelined with right forearm discomfort.

Up next

Kyle Wright will attempt to make another strong impression when the Braves travel to Fort Myers to play the Red Sox Saturday at 1:05 p.m. ET. Wright has positioned himself to possibly open the regular season within Atlanta’s rotation.