03/18/2013 1:06 PM ET
J. Upton on fire since working with hitting coach
By Mark Bowman / MLB.com
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Braves hitting coach Greg Walker was encouraged as he watched Justin Upton take batting practice before Saturday night's game against the Yankees. Upton has validated that encouragement in the days that have followed.
Upton highlighted his first three-hit performance of the spring season with two home runs in Monday's 17-10 win over the Phillies at Champion Stadium. The Braves left fielder hit a two-run home run in the first inning against Rodrigo Lopez and then drilled a three-run shot off Colton Murray in the fourth.
"It's always nice when you go up there, see the ball and put good swings on it," Upton said. "It's Spring Training. You're just trying to get comfortable now and get your timing right. It's always nice to see some results."
Upton entered Saturday with just two hits -- both singles -- in his previous 21 at-bats. He recorded two singles that night and added another to go with his two home runs on Monday. He will enter Tuesday's off-day with hits in his past five at-bats.
"Upton and [Walker] sat back about four or five days ago and did some tinkering and it looks like it paid off," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "I know they were talking about a little different bat angle. He's been locked in."
Upton, who was acquired in a January trade with the D-backs, said he has gained more comfort as Spring Training has progressed.
"Early on in spring, there is a lot going on," Upton said. "You're either taking pictures or doing an interview and you don't really get in your routine. Now that everything has died down, you get to the cage and try to find what is going to get you through the season."
Medlen looking to move past shaky start
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- At the end of a frustrating outing that proved much different than any other he had experienced in his life, Kris Medlen could take solace in the fact that Spring Training results are thrown out the window once the regular season begins.
But it is safe to assume Medlen will not easily forget what he experienced during Monday afternoon's 17-10 win over the Phillies at Champion Stadium. The Braves right-hander surrendered 14 hits and nine earned runs in five innings -- and still got the win.
These are not the results expected from any pitcher, especially one who compiled a 0.97 ERA in the 12 starts he made after transitioning from reliever to starter last year.
"I've never had an outing like that in my life," Medlen said. "I don't think it's ever good to have one of those."
But it is certainly better to experience this now rather than when he opposes the Phillies in two weeks during the first series of the regular season. As that start unfolds, his approach will be different than the one he used while pitching somewhat backwards during this exhibition game.
"I'm not making excuses at all," Medlen said. "I got crushed. But I think we would pitch them a little bit differently during the year. I felt like I had some 2-2 counts and some 1-1 counts where I would normally go to a changeup or offspeed pitch. But I went fastball and just didn't locate it."
After producing a perfect first inning, Medlen allowed seven hits and five runs in the second inning. Darin Ruf's double accounted for the only extra-base hit in the frame, which included a few seeing-eye singles and a Ben Revere single that fell between B.J. Upton and Jason Heyward in right-center field.
Medlen kept the Phillies scoreless in the next two innings and then started to show some fatigue as the Phillies posted four more runs with the help of Domonic Brown's two-run home run in the fifth inning.
"I felt like when I made a pitch they put it in a good spot," Medlen said. "When I didn't make a good pitch, they hit it hard. I got some ground balls and some well-placed ones. But that is a uniform that has never been too kind to me."
Medlen, who has compiled a 5.32 ERA in 13 career appearances (two starts) against the Phillies, could take solace in the fact that he threw 62 of his 84 pitches for strikes. He had needed just 49 pitches to complete 4 2/3 innings against the Marlins in his previous start.
"He might be trying to pitch a little backwards to these guys," manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "At least he got his pitch count up. He hasn't touched 80 pitches the whole spring. So that's good. I don't think he went out there and did it on purpose."
Gonzalez has not announced whether Medlen or Tim Hudson will make the Opening Day start against the Phillies on April 1. But with Hudson scheduled to pitch Thursday against the Nationals and on Tuesday against the Tigers, it appears the Braves could give their veteran the honor.
• Craig Kimbrel completed a perfect seventh inning on Monday in his first appearance since returning from the World Baseball Classic. Gonzalez said Kimbrel stayed on a normal schedule during his time with Team USA and appears set to start the regular season.
• Right-handed reliever Jordan Walden completed a pain-free live batting practice session on Monday. Walden, who has been sidelined by a bulging disc in his back, will make his debut on Wednesday against the Pirates. If he is not ready at the start of the season, Anthony Varvaro will likely get the final bullpen spot on the Opening Day roster.
• There are some lingering concerns about Juan Francisco's ability to consistently hit offspeed pitches and left-handed pitchers. But with three home runs in the past four games, Francisco has strengthened his bid to begin the season as Atlanta's starting third baseman. But Gonzalez said it is too early to declare a winner between Francisco and Chris Johnson.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.