03/10/2013 6:15 PM ET
Francisco looking for edge against breaking balls
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Juan Francisco has gained some positive results, as he has spent the first two weeks of the exhibition season feasting on fastballs and showing his tremendous power potential. But his desire to earn an everyday role with the Braves will be influenced by his willingness to make himself less susceptible to breaking balls and offspeed pitches.
"We're trying to make his swing more efficient where he can actually be more accurate and become less timing-based where you have to time up everything perfectly," Braves hitting coach Greg Walker said. "He's gotten better at it. But he needs to keep fighting to become more efficient and not allow his body and all of his movements take away from his talents."
Francisco has hit .333 (10-for-30) with two home runs, two doubles and seven strikeouts through his first 11 games of the exhibition season. In the process, the pull-happy third baseman has shown more of a willingness to use the whole field by hitting the ball the opposite way.
Still, as the next couple of weeks unfold, the Braves would like Francisco to concentrate on quieting the motion of his swing. Over the past few years, he has developed a habit of shifting his body inward as he is loading to swing and then opening his front side too far during his follow through.
"We're trying to get him to where he can operate and be more efficient when guys start changing speeds or pitching out of the zone to him," Walker said. "A lot of that inefficiency of his body leads to that. He doesn't need it. He doesn't gain any more power. He doesn't need any more power. If he touches it, it's going a long way. We just need him to become more accurate and efficient."
Francisco, who hit nine home runs in 192 at-bats with the Braves last year, is battling with Chris Johnson to begin the season as the starting third baseman. If neither wins the job, manager Fredi Gonzalez might utilize a platoon.
Hudson takes rocky outing vs. Marlins in stride
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Tim Hudson has been around long enough to not be bothered after experiencing a rough outing in the middle of Spring Training. In fact, the Braves veteran pitcher was pretty jovial after struggling through five innings during Sunday's 10-2 loss to the Marlins at Champion Stadium.
"I was just working on backing up the bases and making sure I don't forget where they are," said Hudson, who hit two batters, surrendered nine hits and allowed six earned runs.
If Hudson is searching for positives with three weeks left before the start of the regular season, he can take solace in the fact that his arm is already stretched out. He threw 79 pitches against the Marlins on Monday and 97 more during this action-packed outing against the Marlins.
"I'm definitely getting work in," Hudson said. "But I need it right now. I'm not nearly where I want to be. I'll have three more starts left. By the end of spring, I should be up to 160 or 170 pitches."
Hudson's playful responses provide indication that he has not reached the point of the exhibition season where he is worried about results. Since completing two scoreless innings in his debut on Feb. 22, the 37-year-old pitcher has worked 10 innings and allowed 12 runs. His curveball has been inconsistent and his mechanics are still a work in progress.
"Physically, this is probably the best I've felt from a stamina standpoint," Hudson said. "The results just haven't been great. It's been hit or miss with some pitches. I'll make a couple good ones and then a couple bad ones. Hopefully, it will be different during the season."
Hudson began Sunday's outing by hitting Christian Yelich with a curveball. Three batters later, he surrendered a three-run home run to Marcell Ozuna, who fouled a couple two-strike pitches before hitting an opposite-field shot over the right-field wall.
Chone Figgins' two-out bloop single in the second inning scored two runs and added to the frustration felt by Hudson, who will be scheduled to complete six innings against the Mets on Friday.
"The last couple of starts have been a train wreck from a production standpoint," Hudson said. "But I'm out there pitching in situations that are stressful and trying to make pitches in difficult spots. I haven't exactly made pitches when I wanted to. But it's nice to have a situation where you can work on things and challenge yourself out there without hurting the team in a real game."
O'Flaherty tosses batting practice without pain
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- As he completed a five-minute live batting practice session in pain-free fashion on Sunday morning, Braves left-handed reliever Eric O'Flaherty moved another step closer to making his exhibition season debut.
O'Flaherty's preseason preparations were put on hold when he strained his left groin during the first week of Spring Training. He has made steady progress over the past few weeks and is expected to be part of Atlanta's Opening Day roster.
"He had no problem at all," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said after watching O'Flaherty throw. "He looked great."
With three more weeks remaining in the Grapefruit League schedule, O'Flaherty should have time to complete all of his necessary preparations before Opening Day arrives on April 1. He made 10 appearances before the start of the 2011 season and nine before the start of the 2012 season.
• The Braves will begin having their starting pitchers hit during Monday's game against the Nationals. They used a designated hitter in each of the first 17 games they played this year.
• B.J. Upton recorded three singles on Sunday and got picked off of first base twice by left-hander Wade LeBlanc. He was replaced by pinch-runner Todd Cunningham after notching his third single in the seventh inning. Gonzalez playfully told his center fielder he was making sure he did not get picked off for a third time.
• Chris Johnson's third error of the Grapefruit League season helped the Marlins score two unearned runs off Jonny Venters in Sunday's sixth inning. Venters had not allowed a run in his three previous appearances.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.