Five quick observations from Braves' Thursday workout
FEB 20, 2014 5:43p ET
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Atlanta Braves' second day of full-squad workouts looked remarkably similar to Wednesday's activity at the Disney World complex -- with one notable exception:
At the main practice field, adjacent to Champion Stadium, the hitters and fielders had to negotiate one of the stiffest crosswinds you'll ever encounter on a cloudless, picturesque Florida day, with temperatures hovering around 80 degrees.
As such, it should make for entertaining copy here, as we rattle off five quick observations from a portion of Thursday's workouts:
1. The loudest thud of a catcher's glove occurred during Julio Teheran's pitching stint for batting practice
With the calendar reading Feb. 20, no one should expect any of the Braves -- particularly the starting pitchers -- to be operating at peak form during practice time.
That aside, the noise created from Teheran's offerings was distinctively loud -- from the intangible pfffffftt of the oncoming pitch cutting through the wind to the echo chamber of Evan Gattis's glove when fielding the pitch.
In the realm of first-year MLB pitchers, Teheran (14 wins, 3.20 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 170 strikeouts in 2013) already shares some elite company with baseball's best arms. Of the pitchers with 170 or more strikeouts from last season, only four enjoyed better campaigns, at age 22, respectively (MLB stats only):
Clayton Kershaw -- 13-10, 2.91 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 212/81 K-BB
Madison Bumgarner -- 16-11, 3.37 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, 191/49 K-BB
Mat Latos -- 14-10, 2.92 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 189/50 K-BB
Felix Hernandez -- 9-11, 3.45 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 175/80 K-BB
For his final 26 starts last year, Teheran yielded three or less runs 21 times and amassed double-digit strikeouts three times. And counting all 30 outings from 2013, Teheran was nearly letter-perfect in the control realm, surrendering three or less walks 29 times.
We referenced Felix Hernandez above, one of baseball's best starting pitchers right now. But for his early integration into the big leagues, even King Felix struggled on the hill, walking four or more batters six times and surrendering five-plus runs seven times.
Granted, Hernandez broke into the majors at age 19 -- fanning 11 batters in just his third MLB start -- but it's worth noting Teheran has seldom been a flight risk for walks since signing a pro contract at age 16.
2. Evan Gattis likely crushed the longest easy flyout you'll see in spring training
A pitcher has two best friends on the mound, separate from his teammates: An umpire with a wide strike zone ... and an unrelenting wind that keeps every fly ball in the park.
Reliever David Carpenter had the latter on Thursday, especially against the Braves' Gattis.
After taking a few cracks in his first go-round at the plate, Gattis soon uncorked a moon shot that jumped off the catcher/infielder/outfielder's bat toward an unmanned center field.
But alas, once the ball rocketed past the infield ... it died of a painless death on the warning track.
3. Carpenter should have no trouble announcing his presence with authority this season -- again
While watching Carpenter take on a series of Braves hitters, including Gattis, some random guy (possibly from MLB Productions) sidled up to me and said, "Hey, Kimbrel looks pretty good for the second day."
I paused for a second, gazing back at the mound, before saying, "Uh, that's a taller and brawnier version of Kimbrel -- David Carpenter. So, you're not that far off."
In lieu of Mariano Rivera's retirement with the New York Yankees, no other active closer compares favorably to Kimbrel, who has a supreme three-year track record with the Braves, amassing 11 wins, a 1.51 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 341 strikeouts (202.2 innings).
But Carpenter certainly has a lot in his favor, racking up rock-solid setup numbers last year -- 4-1, 1.78 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 74/20 K-BB rate.
Plus, of his last 28 outings (July 23-Sept. 29), Carpenter held the opposition scoreless 24 times and notched multiple strikeouts 17 times.
4. Frank Wren doesn't need a proverbial 'eye in the sky' to see everything
Sure, it helps that Wren, the Braves' general manager since October 2007, has the luxury of buzzing around Disney's expansive facility in a golf cart. But that still doesn't dilute the impressive act of finalizing Andrelton Simmons' contract (seven years, $58 million), observing multiple groups of players at various practice fields and then hustling back to Champion Stadium for a media briefing in a 30-minute window.
With nary a bead of sweat to show from all the activity.
Given his relaxed persona when talking to the media, you wouldn't have guessed Wren and his staff have likely been putting in absurd hours to secure the Braves' long-term interests with Simmons, Teheran, Kimbrel, Freddie Freeman and, to a lesser degree, Heyward, whose two-year contract essentially buys out his final 'arbitration' season (2015).
5. Perhaps NASA and the people who make JUGS machines should work together on a project
The daunting, unpredictable winds at the main practice field added to the Braves' degree of difficulty with fielding drills. On this day, it was common for a ball to start out along the first-base side ... and end up on the foul side of the third-base line.
The outfielders were also no strangers to harrowing moments. While playing at normal depth in left field, Justin Upton quickly called "I got it" for a seemingly routine ball that eventually had him running onto the infield dirt. (He caught it.)
The main culprit here: The JUGS machine consistently provided sky-high balls that seldom descended on a typical plane.
It was enough to make the big leaguers romanticize thoughts of cold-weather games in April ... but with zero wind movement.