CLEARWATER, Fla. -- To prepare Craig Kimbrel for the World Baseball Classic, the Braves scheduled him to appear in four of their first nine games of the Grapefruit League season. They did not envision that their dominant closer would allow at least one run in two of those first three appearances.
But as Kimbrel prepares to leave for the Classic on Sunday, he and the Braves can only hope that things improve. Kimbrel's most recent shaky outing came on Thursday, when he allowed two runs -- one earned -- in a 10-5 loss to the Phillies at Bright House Field.
"When the fastball is up, they get hit," Kimbrel said. "That's what happened today."
Kimbrel allowed Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard to open the fifth inning with a long opposite-field home run over the wall in left-center. He then walked Michael Young before watching first baseman Ernesto Mejia drop Tyler Pastornicky's throw on a double-play attempt. The error prolonged the inning long enough for Domonic Brown to score on a groundout.
"You just want to see these guys keep getting better and sharper as the spring progresses," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I think even though we want to see those zeros up there, in Spring Training we're not going to see that."
Fortunately, Kimbrel has not felt any soreness or any sort of fatigue in his arm. His command simply has not been where he will want it to be when the regular season begins on April 1.
Kimbrel issued a pair of walks in his spring debut, and allowed two hits and a run in Monday's win over the Marlins. He allowed one hit over eight scoreless innings in Grapefruit League action last year.
Before leaving to join Team USA in Arizona next week, he will make one more appearance for the Braves, either on Saturday or Sunday.
"From my first outing to now, what happened on the field, it doesn't look like I've gotten further along," Kimbrel said. "But the way I feel and the way I feel about my pitch selection, I feel [they] are better. I'm not all over the place like I was the first outing. It's just a process. That's why we're down here, to get things worked out and get ready for the season."
Braves thinking Gattis could catch on as catcher
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Manager Fredi Gonzalez was pleased with the way Evan Gattis handled himself while playing catcher for the first five innings of Thursday's 10-5 loss to the Phillies at Bright House Field.
Because of the uncertainty surrounding how he would be best used, Gattis is one of the most intriguing players in camp. Last year the 26-year-old slugger was used solely as a catcher until the Braves began giving him some time in the outfield while he played with Double-A Mississippi.
The Braves have discussed the possibility of carrying Gattis on the roster as a third catcher who would be available to pinch-hit and play either left field or first base if necessary. But the more the coaches have seen him hit, the more intrigued they have become with learning how well he might be able to handle the catcher's position.
Although Gattis has never drawn rave reviews for his defensive abilities behind the plate, multiple scouts and members of the Braves organization believe he would be at least as effective as some current big league catchers.
"You don't need him to win the Gold Glove or anything," Gonzalez said. "He's serviceable."
If Gattis continues to inspire confidence about his catching abilities over the remainder of Spring Training, there is at least an outside chance that his bat could earn him a chance to share the position with Gerald Laird until Brian McCann returns sometime in April.
Gattis combined to hit .305 with 18 home runs and a .607 slugging percentage while primarily playing for Class A Advanced Lynchburg and Mississippi last year. He then hit .303 with 16 home runs and a .595 slugging percentage in the Venezuelan Winter League. Through his first 16 at-bats of the Grapefruit League season, he has seven hits, including two doubles and a homer.
McCann takes BP for first time this spring
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Brian McCann was happy about the way his surgically repaired right shoulder felt on Thursday morning, when he took batting practice for the first time this year.
"It was nice to get back in there and see something coming at you," McCann said. "I'm on pace. Everything they have asked me to do, I've done."
McCann will complete his rehab exercises and return the field on Saturday to take batting practice again and to build his arm strength. The six-time All-Star catcher threw from a distance of 120 feet on Thursday without any problem.
The Braves will have McCann take batting practice and throw on an every-other-day basis for at least another week. They will continue to bring him along slowly as he recovers from October's procedure.
McCann remains confident that he will be ready to return to the lineup at some point in the middle of April. His timetable will become clearer as he continues to test the shoulder over the next few weeks.
All games to air on FOX Sports South or SportSouth
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- FOX Sports South and SportSouth will serve as the sole providers of the 152 Braves games to be shown on local television outlets this season, having acquired the rights to the 45 games that had previously been reserved for Turner Networks' Peachtree TV.
The acquisition provides a small increase to the team's television revenue.
"We are extremely happy to consolidate these 45 additional games with our current partner, FOX Sports," executive vice president Derek Schiller said. "This agreement makes it easier for fans to follow our team and aligns our interests of continuing to have the highest-quality award-winning broadcasts with the championship-caliber Braves baseball teams."
Instead of looking for Braves games on three channels, fans will now have the luxury of searching on just two. FOX Sports South will broadcast 72 games, with SportSouth airing the rest.
Play-by-play announcer Chip Caray and analyst Joe Simpson will serve as broadcasters. Dale Murphy and Tom Glavine will serve as guest analysts for select games through the season.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.