Vaughn Grissom continued to assert himself as the presumptive starting shortstop for the Braves heading into Opening Day. Grissom made a couple of really nice plays with the glove before adding an RBI that helped push the Braves ahead of the Rays in spring training action.
While it’s a pretty safe assumption that Vaughn Grissom will be one half of the keystone combination for Atlanta alongside Ozzie Albies, it’s still nice to see Grissom continue to make the position his own at this point. There are sure to be some growing pains in the future but it’s still easy to see why there’s so much confidence being placed in Grissom. He displayed his defensive ability early on in today’s game with a really nice play-and-throw on a ground ball his way.
Meanwhile at the plate, Grissom picked up a hit in the sixth inning of this one and ended up legging out a ground ball that seemed like it should’ve been a double play. Instead, Grissom beat the throw to first base (following a review) and that was the RBI that broke a 1-1 deadlock at that point of the game.
The one run that the Rays had up to that point was given up by Ian Anderson back in the second inning. Old friend Charlie Culberson cashed in Vidal Brujan from second base with a single after Brujan reached on a leadoff walk to kick off that frame. The walk was the first of three for Anderson on the day, and this also included him hitting the first batter he saw today.
The single from Culberson was the only hit that Anderson gave up over 3.2 innings of work today and while giving up just the one hit was a positive, the overall body of work from Anderson was more of what we’ve seen from him over the years. Anderson continues to have trouble getting ahead of batters and as a result, we get a situation where he’s leaving the game in the fourth inning with nearly 60 pitches for the day. It was also interesting (or concerning, really) to see that his fastball was topping out at 92 miles-per-hour for the day, when he was averaging 94 during 2022. Maybe he’s still ramping up, but that’ll certainly be a concern if he’s still at 92 once the games start counting.
Following Ian Anderson’s departure, the bullpen had a pretty solid day on the mound. Dylan Lee went 1.1 innings and picked up a strikeout without giving up any runs. Nick Anderson continued to impress as he racked up two more strikeouts to make it nine for him so far during spring training. Nine strikeouts through four innings is a fine tally and if he keeps it up then he’s got just as good of a chance as anybody else to make it into the big league bullpen for Opening Day.
As far as the result of the game was concerned, the Braves ended up needing the insurance run that they got in the eighth inning after a Cody Milligan RBI double. That’s because the Rays immediately answered back with a home run from Gavin Collins off of Victor Vodnik (who was touching 100 miles-per-hour on the radar gun during this at-bat, mind you). Fortunately, Matt Swarmer came on for the ninth inning and threw a scoreless frame to end the game and give the Braves a precious and priceless Grapefruit League victory.
All in all, it was one of those typical spring games where you get some stuff that gets you really excited for certain players while also bringing about a bit of trepidation when it comes to other players. Most importantly, it’s another day crossed of the calendar with Opening Day on the horizon.