Nate McLouth will start in center this year for Atlanta

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Braves outfielder Nate McLouth had the worst offensive season of his career in 2010, posting a miserable .190 batting average and .620 OPS across 288 plate appearances.  He was demoted to the Triple-A level at one point and he also battled a concussion near the middle of the summer.

It was a brutal showing.

But, because he is owed $7.5 million this season on the final year of his current contract and because the Braves don’t have any better options, McLouth is going to open the 2011 season as Atlanta’s starting center fielder.

Braves general manager Frank Wren confirmed that fact Thursday in a chat with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s David O’Brien:

“We think he can do it,” Wren said. “I think we saw enough in September, and we’ve seen enough in his career. I mean, he’s a good player. I believe — and I think most people around here believe — that what we saw for that first year he was with us, was an aberration. That’s not Nate McLouth. I mean, he’s too good a player, there’s too many teams that would love to have him. And he brings some things to the table that we don’t have.”

If it simply doesn’t work out, the Braves could turn to Joe Mather, an athletic outfielder who spent the last several seasons posting good numbers in the Cardinals’ minor league system.  Or they could turn back to Jordan Schafer, though his numbers at Triple-A last year (.509 OPS in 208 PAs) were awfully frightening.

Video: Angels use eight pitchers in spring training no-hitter

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Who says no-hitters can’t be just as fun when they happen during spring training?

Angels’ right-hander Bud Norris delivered two perfect innings on Friday night, paving the way for an eight-pitcher no-hitter against the Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Jose Alvarez, Cam Bedrosian, Andrew Bailey, Austin Adams, Drew Gagnon and Justin Anderson each filed a hitless inning of their own, leaving right-hander Abel De Los Santos to close out the ninth inning with just three pitches — and three game-saving plays by the defense.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Angels were facing a bevy of Mariners’ backups, rather than their starting lineup. In fact, Seattle’s lineup featured just two starting players — outfielder Leonys Martin and shortstop Jean Segura — while the majority of their everyday position players took on the Royals in a 4-3 win elsewhere in the Cactus League. The Mariners managed to reach base twice, first on catcher interference in the fourth inning, then on a four-pitch walk in the sixth, spoiling the Angels’ chances of turning their combined no-hitter into a combined perfect game.

Still, whether it’s executed in spring training or the regular season, against an All-Star lineup or one comprised of minor leaguers, a no-hitter is a no-hitter. The team’s eight-pitcher effort marked the first spring training no-no the Angels had completed since 1996, when they took on the Giants in a 15-0 showdown. Unfortunately for the 1996 squad, their regular season ended with a 70-91 record, good for last place in the AL West. Perhaps this no-hitter will prove a better omen for the coming season.

Tanner Scheppers leaves Cactus League game with lower core injury

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Rangers’ bullpen candidate Tanner Scheppers left Friday’s Cactus League game with pain in his “lower half,” according to reports by Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News. The specifics of the right-hander’s injury have yet to be determined, but he was accompanied by the athletic trainer when he exited the game and is scheduled to undergo an MRI on Saturday.

Scheppers, 30, has a long history of elbow and knee injuries. He missed all but 8 2/3 innings of the 2016 season after undergoing a procedure to repair torn articular cartilage in his left knee. While he appeared healthy enough through his first seven appearances this spring, he failed to impress with three runs, five walks and six strikeouts over 7 2/3 innings with the club.

Should Scheppers find himself on the disabled list for another lengthy stay, MLB.com’s T.R. Sullivan speculates that his absence could clear some room in the bullpen for Rule 5 draft pick and fellow righty Mike Hauschild. Hauschild, 27, has dealt seven runs, five walks and 15 strikeouts through 17 1/3 innings in camp.