The Braves got down to 25 players Monday, demoting pitchers Cory Gearrin and Julio Teheran to Triple-A as part of their cuts. Left as the 12th pitcher on the staff was Yohan Flande, who appeared all set to make his major league debut after spending six years in the minors.
Then came the bad news today: Atlanta signed Nationals castoff Chad Durbin to a major league contract. Flande is on his way back to Triple-A after all.
Flande, 26, entered camp as a big long shot to make the team, but he allowed just three runs — one earned — and eight hits in 12 1/3 innings for the spring. He had a 4.01 ERA in 19 starts and 14 relief appearances for Triple-A Gwinnett last year.
Durbin, 34, was cut by the Nats after allowing eight runs — four earned — and 21 hits in 15 1/3 innings this spring. He was a member of Cleveland’s pen last season and had a 5.53 ERA in 68 1/3 innings.
Their recent changes leaves the Braves pitching staff skewing quite a bit older than expected. Durbin and fellow new acquisition Livan Hernandez will both work in middle relief, giving the team veteran fallbacks in case Randall Delgado or any of their other starters struggle early on.
Jaime Garcia has been at the center of trade talks for several days now, but on Friday night, he commanded center stage for an entirely different reason. The Braves’ southpaw went head-to-head with Dodgers’ lefty Alex Wood and mashed his first career grand slam: a two-out, 399-foot blast that cleared the wall in right field and put the Braves up 9-0 in the fifth inning.
The bases-loaded knock was the third career home run for Garcia, whose contributions at the plate have been few and far between over his nine-year track in the major leagues. Not only did the homer mark an impressive career first for the 30-year-old, but it was just the second pitcher grand slam in Braves’ history and the first since 1966.
Garcia looked almost as impressive on the mound during Friday’s series opener, issuing one run, four hits and three strikeouts through his first six innings. The Braves currently lead the Dodgers 12-1 in the top of the seventh inning.
As for whether the slam will affect negotiations between the Braves and Twins? MLB.com’s Mike Petriello put it best:
Athletics’ first baseman Ryon Healy had a scary moment during Friday’s loss to the Mets. Lucas Duda smacked a single to the first base side, where the ball took a high hop and caught Healy in the left temple. He crumpled to the ground after getting struck by the one-hopper, but was eventually able to stand and walk off the field with assistance from a trainer.
Prior to the injury, Healy went 2-for-3 at the plate with an RBI single in the first inning. He was replaced by Yonder Alonso, who finished off the rest of the night’s 7-5 loss with a walk in two plate appearances.
Following the game, manager Bob Melvin told reporters that Healy did not appear to have sustained a concussion as a result of the hit. Healy said he thinks he’ll be good to go for Saturday’s game, though a final decision likely won’t be made until tomorrow.