Notes: Fried's efficient debut; new No. 25

March 10th, 2021

Pitching in a game for the first time in nearly five full months, looked just as comfortable as he did while garnering some Cy Young Award consideration last year.

Fried allowed one run and proved efficient enough to complete four innings in a 5-3 loss to the Red Sox on Wednesday afternoon at JetBlue Park. This spring debut was delayed five days because the Braves' left-hander had to quarantine after being potentially exposed to COVID-19 last week.

“I think I’ll be more than ready to be ready to go when the season starts,” Fried said. “Whenever my name is called, I’ll be ready to go.”

Whether the Braves will give their Opening Day start to Charlie Morton or Fried remains to be seen. But any doubts about the latter candidate being ready were answered as he became the first Braves pitcher this spring to complete at least four innings.

Fried will have time to make three or four more Spring Training starts, depending on where the Braves choose to place him in their rotation when the regular season begins. The 27-year-old southpaw went 7-0 with a 2.25 ERA over 11 starts and finished fifth in National League Cy Young Award balloting last year.

Fried surrendered a pair of hits, including Rafael Devers’ run-scoring double, in the first inning and then pitched around Christian Vazquez’s one-out double in the second. He retired each of the last eight batters faced while completing his first start since Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

“It allows you to take a deep breath and realize all the work you put in during the offseason is working,” Fried said. “You’ve got to stick to the process. It’s nice to get results. But I’ll go back, look at a few things you can get better at and work toward it the next time.”

Braves manager Brian Snitker was certainly pleased to see Fried prove he is still on track to be ready for the start of the season.

“Things can happen in this day and age,” Snitker said. “You just don’t know how long they’ll get backed off. We’re real fortunate. We did the right thing. We went through the protocols and nothing happened. So, that’s good.”

Number change

Cristian Pache has proudly switched his jersey to No. 25 to honor Andruw Jones, who wore the number for Atlanta from 1996-2007. The young outfielder officially made the switch prior to playing center field in Wednesday’s game against the Red Sox.

Pache has worn No. 25 while playing in the Braves’ Minor League system. But when he debuted last year, the number was unavailable because it was being worn by veteran catcher Tyler Flowers.

While serving as a Spring Training instructor in 2018, Jones was actually responsible for bringing attention to Pache. The 10-time Gold Glove Award winner described the then 19-year-old prospect as being the best defensive outfielder in the entire organization.

That included Ender Inciarte, who had won the second of three straight Gold Glove Awards just a few months earlier.

Pache now ranks as baseball’s No. 12 prospect per MLB Pipeline. As he bids to become Atlanta’s center fielder this year, he stays in contact with Jones.

Keep an eye on
Veterans Carl Edwards Jr. and Víctor Arano didn’t necessarily strengthen their bids for a bullpen spot on Wednesday. But while striking out each of the three batters he faced in the eighth inning, William Woods showed why Snitker has been talking about him.

“He’s impressing me,” Snitker said. “From the first side I’ve seen the kid throw, I’ve been excited to see the kid pitch. I kind of feel like there is more in there once he gets established.”

You won’t find Woods on any top prospects list. He has posted a 4.14 ERA, and his 24.7 percent strikeout rate is marred by the 12.3 percent walk rate he has produced over 30 appearances, none above Class A.

But the 22-year-old right-hander has drawn some attention with a fastball that sits in the upper 90s and a slider that has shown potential. He might be a year or two away from the Majors. But he’s somebody who might garner a lot more attention this summer.

As for Edwards, he issued three consecutive two-out walks in the fifth and then got J.D. Martinez to ground out. Arano surrendered three hits, including a Bobby Dalbec grand slam, during the sixth inning.