Notes: Davies looks for consistency
After promising first start, right-hander struggles on Tuesday
VIERA, Fla. -- As he attempts to rebound from a forgettable 2006 season and secure his shot in the Braves' starting rotation, it's obvious that Kyle Davies won't breeze through Spring Training in the same successful manner that he did last year.
Coming off last week's promising Grapefruit League debut, Davies returned to the mound on Tuesday afternoon and learned that he's going to have to show more consistency while throwing his fastball from the stretch.
"Obviously, it didn't go as well I would have liked it to," said Davies after allowing the Nationals two earned runs and five hits in two innings on Tuesday afternoon at Space Coast Stadium.
While needing just 17 pitches to complete two perfect innings against the Dodgers on Thursday, Davies never had to pitch from the stretch. That wasn't the case Tuesday, when he threw from the windup to just three of the 11 batters that he faced.
"I felt great out of the windup," said Davies, who was 2-1 with a 1.89 ERA in his five exhibition starts last year. "The stretch kind of was just was patchwork."
Davies' success in Spring Training last year didn't lead to a successful season. He tore his right groin on May 14 and missed the next 3 1/2 months while recovering from surgery. In his six September starts, he was 1-4 with a 13.06 ERA.
With his performance against the Nationals, Davies didn't exactly show signs he's heading toward a rebound. Over the course of the next three weeks he'll have to provide further confidence that he's capable of filling the fifth spot in the starting rotation.
After allowing a first-inning, one-out double to Chris Snelling, Davies was fortunate that Ryan Langerhans went to the center-field wall to deny Ryan Zimmerman a two-run homer. The 23-year-old right-hander then issued consecutive walks before allowing a Brian Schneider two-run double.
Josh Wilson and Nook Logan also doubled to account for two of the three hits Davies surrendered to the five batters he faced in the second inning.
"I don't know if it's from the leg or what," manager Bobby Cox said. "But he's got some balls down the hot zone."
While searching for positives, Davies was happy with the action of both his changeup and curveball. In addition, he still hasn't experienced any signs that the groin will be a problem.
"Overall, he's healthy," Cox said, while also seemingly attempting to search for the positives.
"Outstanding," Cox said when asked about Hampton's Tuesday morning session.
With Hampton not experiencing any problems in his past two bullpen sessions, Cox says he'll likely pitch the veteran left-hander in Saturday's game against the Mets. It will be Hampton's first appearance since he had Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery in September 2005.
As for Rafael Soriano, it's still unknown when he'll begin pitching. Instead of pushing his sore right shoulder with a bullpen session on Tuesday, the Braves opted to have the right-handed reliever just play catch.
"He should be fine," said an optimistic Cox.
Woodward's return unknown: When Chris Woodward tweaked his right calf muscle last week, the Braves were initially hopeful that he'd miss only a week. But Tuesday morning, Cox indicated there isn't a certain timetable to apply to this kind of injury.
In fact, he said the Braves medical staff has given Cox the impression that Woodward could miss anywhere from one to eight weeks. The veteran utility infielder was cleared to begin hitting off a batting tee on Monday.
If Woodward is unavailable for the start of the regular season, Pete Orr and Willy Aybar would likely begin the season as Atlanta's utility infielders. Coming off a rookie season in which he hit .300, Orr returned to the same backup role last year and hit just .253 in 154 at-bats.
"Our fans probably don't even know who Pete Orr is and he's a good player," Cox said. "He's played good for us. You can't keep him out of the mix."
Two other candidates would be Yunel Escobar and Martin Prado, who has eight hits in his 14 Grapefruit League at-bats. But their limited versatility lessens their candidacy. Escobar has little experience at second base and Prado has never proven to be a strong shortstop.
Rough stretch for McBride: After allowing four hits in two innings during his exhibition season debut last week, Macay McBride joked that he'd had worse first outings. But things didn't exactly get better for the left-handed reliever on Tuesday, when in two innings he allowed the Nationals four earned runs and four hits.
When it was pointed out that McBride had allowed a double to Travis Lee and three-run homer to Schneider, a perplexed Cox responded, "I know."
Fick's apology: Before Tuesday's game, former Brave Robert Fick came to the Braves dugout to tell Cox he was sorry about what happened Monday, when he exchanged words with Braves left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez. Fick was upset after a Gonzalez fastball came toward his head.
"The last thing I want is for Bobby Cox to dislike me," said Fick, who has always had the greatest admiration for his former manager.
Fick's 75 year-old mother, Gloria, is currently in California battling lung cancer. While gladly accepting the apology, Cox told his former first baseman that he was sorry to hear of this development.
Game highlights: Cox was impressed with the debut of Blaine Boyer, who pitched around two walks to provide a scoreless fifth inning. ... Escobar, who has six hits in his first 13 at-bats, and Langerhans began Tuesday's fifth inning with back-to-back homers. ... Willie Harris, a longshot to win a roster spot, victimized the Nationals with a three-hit, two-RBI performance that included two stolen bases.
Coming up: John Smoltz will make his second start on Wednesday, when the Braves travel to Lakeland to face the Tigers, who will start Jeremy Bonderman. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. ET.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.