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Pitching sharp as Braves win exhibition opener over Twins

Atlanta carried a no-hitter into the ninth.

MLB: Tampa Bay Rays at Atlanta Braves Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Braves picked up their first win of 2022 defeating the Minnesota Twins 3-1 in their exhibition opener at CoolToday Park. The Braves got some good performances from several young players, particularly on the mound.

2020 fifth round pick Bryce Elder got the start on the mound and was impressive. He struck out Twins shortstop prospect Royce Lewis to begin the game and tossed three scoreless innings to begin the game. Elder issued a leadoff walk to Tim Beckham in the third but he was erased as Daniel Robertson grounded into a double play.

The Braves got on the board in the third inning as Drew Waters connected on a solo home run in his first at-bat of the spring. Waters struck out in his second at-bat, but it was a good start for what is a critical season for the young outfielder.

Atlanta tacked on another run later in the evening when new first baseman Matt Olson beat the shift driving home Orlando Arcia. Olson started and saw two at-bats in the game before exiting.

Elder gave way to young right-hander Darius Vines in the fourth. Vines split the 2021 season between Augusta and Rome. He was equally impressive tossing three hitless innings to go along with two strikeouts.

The Braves added another run in the sixth when outfield prospect Michael Harris drove home John Nogowski to make it 3-0. Victor Vodnik came on to pitch in the seventh and mowed through the Twins striking out five straight hitters over two hitless innings.

Jasseel De La Cruz took over in the ninth and was looking to close out the no-hitter. Beckham led off the inning with a high fly ball to center that Harris lost in the sun for a double. Dennis Ortega singled two batters later to score Beckham to make it 3-1. De La Cruz allowed another single, but was able to retire the final two hitters to preserve the win.

Game Notes

William Contreras started behind the plate and hit a ringing double in his first at-bat. He lined out his second time up, but hit the ball hard both times. Braden Shewmake went 0-for-2 while Vaughn Grissom struck out twice in two at-bats. Ozzie Albies, Marcell Ozuna and Adam Duvall were a combined 0-for-5 with a walk.

Jackson Stephens will start Saturday’s game for the Braves against the Rays. Stephens is a 27-year old right-hander who was an 18th round selection by the Reds in 2012. He last pitched in the majors in 2018 and spent the 2019 season in Triple A. He has a career 4.83 ERA and 5.45 FIP in 63 1/3 career innings.

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