Staff Photo: Brendan Sullivan Atlanta Braves Chipper Jones (10) chats with his teammates during batting practice prior to the Atlanta Braves Stars of Today vs the Stars of Tomorrow baseball game at Coolray Field in Lawrenceville on Tuesday.
WERE YOU SPOTTED?
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LAWRENCEVILLE -- Just like the end of 2011, rain shortened the first professional game at Coolray Field in 2012.
But unlike the unsatisfactory end to last season, Tuesday's showcase left a sweeter taste.
In Gwinnett's exhibition game between the Atlanta Braves and an all-star roster of prospects from across the Atlanta minor leagues, the Braves outlasted the Future Stars team in a 4-3 win in a game called due to rain with one out in the bottom of the seventh.
"If they asked us to do it again next year, we would love to do it," said Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "The only sad thing was the weather at the end, but other than that it was first class."
With three combined errors, two from the Atlanta Braves, the play fell short of first class at times, but as a final tune-up for season openers at all levels there were plenty of positives.
Braves' starter Mike Minor walked Lynchburg's Matt Lipka to open the game and the speedy outfielder made the most of it.
He stole second after getting caught off first by catcher David Ross and advanced to third on an errant throw by first baseman Freddie Freeman.
Future Gwinnett Braves third baseball Joey Terdoslavich knocked him in with a groundout to second base.
But the groundout started a string of seven straight outs for the lefty who ended the game after three innings, giving up one hit, walking one and striking out four.
Minor will start Sunday at the New York Mets and Gonzalez said he was satisfied with the left-handers' three innings.
In the other dugout, Future Stars starter Sean Gilmartin, last year's first-round draft pick, pitched two innings and struck out two, but the hit he gave up was a big one. Dan Uggla took the first pitch from the Class AA Mississippi-bound Gilmartin well over the retaining wall in left field to tie the game 1-1.
"Great, he was great. He threw a fastball to a guy who hits fastballs and he didn't miss it," Gonzalez said of the right-hander. "He's been impressive to me the whole spring training."
The Future Stars re-took the lead in the fifth inning off reliever Cristhian Martinez, making his first appearance since his DUI arrest Monday morning. The right-handed reliever gave up two hits and walked a batter, allowing two runs and watched Edward Salcedo steal second and third base. He did earn his first win of the spring.
Brandon Drury, destined to begin the year with low-A Rome, doubled to lead off the fifth, advanced on a fly-out to right and scored when Salcedo singled. Salcedo, a designated hitter, scored when catcher David Ross attempted to pick him off third base and the throw skipped into left field.
But the chance for former manager and now special assistant to the general manager Bobby Cox to get another win as a manager vanished in the bottom half of the fifth.
Michael Bourn doubled with two outs down the first base line to start a string of three-straight extra-base, run-scoring hits and the Braves took the final 4-3 lead.
"It was looking (like I would get the win) until Bourn got the big hit, by first base, the big chopper," Cox said. "I was proud of our guys, they held their own, as Fredi (Gonzalaz) was talking, we threw some great arms out there."
Other than the home run and the three runs allowed by J.R. Graham of the Class A Lynchburg, Mississippi's David Hale, Lynchburg's Matt Chaffee and Gus Schossler and Mississippi's Mark Lamb combined for 3 scoreless against the big league lineup. The Future Braves struck out eight current Braves.
"If I ever get fired, I am going to manage the Lynchburg Hillcats this year," Gonzalez said. "That's a pretty good club they are going to run out there this year."
"We've got a lot to look forward to with the pitching especially," Cox said. "The pitching for me tonight, I didn't know it was going to be that good, the arms I saw."
Livan Hernandez struck out two in a scoreless inning and Kris Medlen and Eric O'Flaherty each threw one-hit scoreless frames for Atlanta.
Chipper pain free in BP
Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones took batting practice before Tuesday's exhibition and said he was pain free in his left knee after arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn meniscus. He took between 40-50 swings and said the ball felt good coming off the bat. And he was using catcher Brian McCann's bats, not his own.
Jones said he is aiming for a return for the Braves home opener April 13 against the Brewers, but is "optimistic" for an earlier return.
"The bottom line is I am going to have to prove to these guys that I can swing the bat, run, play defense, go all-out on defense," he said.