TAMPA, Fla. -- Craig Kimbrel struggled in two of his first three appearances this spring. But while completing a pair of scoreless appearances against the Yankees this week, the hard-throwing right-hander gained confidence that he's where he needs to be a little less than three weeks before the start of the regular season.
"I'm at a point where I do feel good," Kimbrel said. "With every outing, I'm going to get better. I expect to get better. That's not Spring Training. That's every game that I play. That's my goal. It doesn't matter if it's here in spring or in September."
Since allowing six hits and four runs in the 2 1/3 innings over his first three appearances, Kimbrel has found better command of his offspeed pitches, and he's shown that he can battle back after falling behind in the count.
During Friday's outing, he issued Austin Krum a leadoff walk and rebounded with a strikeout. With Krum on third and two outs, Kimbrel fell behind Addison Maruszak with a 2-0 count, but got him to produce an inning-ending groundout.
2010 Spring Training - Atlanta Braves
News & Features
- Cox gets baseball fix managing Future stars
- Graham fine with starting season at Double-A
- Braves return to their old Mississippi digs
- Gattis, Uggla turn on power against Future stars
- Venters slated for elbow checkup with Dr. Andrews
Sights & Sounds
Spring Training Info
Kimbrel and Jonny Venters are the top candidates to begin the season in the closer's role. Venters, who has allowed just one hit in five scoreless innings this year, is scheduled for one inning against the Mets on Saturday.
Prado impressing with moves in left field
TAMPA, Fla. -- Martin Prado says he's eager to see how he fares when he plays left field under the glare of the bright lights of the stadiums he'll visit once the regular season arrives.
His sprint to the left-center-field gap to grab Cardinals outfielder Jon Jay's long drive just before it bounced off the outfield wall in Thursday's game could show there's nothing to worry about.
"I thought the center fielder [Wilkin Ramirez] was going to have the ball," Prado said. "The wind was blowing across the stadium, and the ball was carrying that way. By the time I looked up, I thought I think I have a shot at this ball."
Since the beginning of camp, Prado moved with such ease in the left that it has been difficult to remember he has rarely played the outfield before this year. Now with a couple weeks left in camp, he's showing off his ability to make highlight grabs.
"That was a tremendous play," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "If you didn't know any better, you'd have thought he'd been out there his whole life."
Braves' Schafer has big day against Yankees
TAMPA, Fla. -- Jordan Schafer is starting to display the talents that made him so exciting during the Grapefruit League season two years ago.
During Friday's 6-2 win over the Yankees, the Braves' outfielder drilled a second-inning homer into the right-field seats, and then he showed his speed when he bunted for a base hit in the fourth inning.
"It was nice for him to stay with his game after he hit the home run," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It's got to be nice to come to the ballpark and know that you can at least get one [hit] by bunting hit or hitting it on the ground."
Although he has hit just .216 (8-for-37) during Spring Training, Schafer has managed to show his athleticism. But since beginning the 2009 season as Atlanta's starting center fielder, he has battled a wrist injury and been unable to live up to the hype he had in '08, when he was considered the organization's top prospect.
Schafer will likely begin this season in the Minors, where he can be utilized in an everyday role and make up for the time he has missed the past few years. But the Braves believe he could be an asset in the Majors later this year or at least by the start of 2012.
Center fielder Nate McLouth will return to the lineup Saturday after missing four games with a sore right shoulder. McLouth received a cortisone shot Wednesday. ... Tommy Hanson wasn't happy with the way he was throwing his changeup while limiting the Yankees to one run and five hits in four innings Friday. ... The Braves didn't reveal why left-hander Eric O'Flaherty was scratched from his scheduled appearance against the Yankees on Friday. Anthony Varvaro tossed a scoreless ninth in his place.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.