LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- B.J. Upton notched his fifth multihit performance of the spring and Freddy Garcia seemingly solidified his spot in Atlanta's starting rotation while helping the Braves claim a 4-1 win over the Mets on Sunday afternoon at Champion Stadium.
Upton got the Braves rolling when he lined an opposite-field triple off the right-field wall with one out in the first inning.
Chris Johnson scored Upton when he extended Mets starter Carlos Torres' early woes by bouncing a two-out double off the left-center-field wall.
The Braves have until Monday to determine whether Garcia will be on their Opening Day roster. But the 37-year-old right-hander seemed to erase any doubt as he limited the Mets to an unearned run and two hits over 5 1/3 innings. He is expected to fill the third spot in the four-man rotation Atlanta will use to begin the regular season.
Andrelton Simmons doubled and scored on Steven Lerud's two-out double in the fourth inning. But in the top half of the same inning, the sure-handed Simmons also allowed the Mets to tie the score when he bobbled a Josh Satin grounder as he was preparing to throw to third base in attempt to retire Juan Lagares. Kirk Nieuwenhuis followed with a one-out RBI groundout that scored Lagares, who had drawn a leadoff walk.
Justin Upton hit a sixth-inning solo home run off Mets reliever Joel Carreno, and Freddie Freeman further padded Atlanta's advantage with a seventh-inning RBI double that scored Jose Constanza from first base.
But after Garcia limited the Mets to an unearned run and two hits over 5 1/3 innings during Sunday's 4-1 victory, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez would not commit to guaranteeing the 37-year-old right-hander will begin the season in his rotation.
"We'll see," Gonzalez said. "I wouldn't assume anything. His performance today was good, though. We've still got four or five days, so a lot of things could still happen."
There is always a chance the Braves could acquire another starting pitcher via a trade or a waiver-wire move at some point this week. But by the time Monday concludes, they need to tell Garcia whether he will be placed on Atlanta's roster to begin the season.
If Garcia does not receive this guarantee, he would likely opt out of the Minor League contract he signed in January. While he's willing to be used as a starter or reliever at the big league level, he has repeatedly said he has no desire to pitch at the Minor League level.
Garcia has been effective in three of the five starts he has made during the Grapefruit League season. The first of the two disappointing outings he completed was influenced by the pressure he faced as he pitched while his wife was in labor at a Miami-area hospital.
While Garcia might not be effective as a starting pitcher over the entirety of the regular season, he could provide value in the bullpen as a long reliever who would have the ability to occasionally make a spot start.
David Hale will attempt to solidify a spot in Atlanta's starting rotation when he takes the mound for Monday evening's game against the Astros at Champion Stadium. Hale is the favorite to win the final spot in the four-man rotation the Braves will use through at least the regular season's first seven games. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05 p.m, and the game will be shown on MLB.TVand Fox Sports South. This will be Atlanta's final night game of the Grapefruit League season.
---- Source: MLB.com