CLEARWATER, Fla. -- You don't often see the kind of play Matt Lipka made in the ninth inning of the Braves' 2-2 tie with the Phillies at Bright House Field on Wednesday afternoon.
Well, Lipka does. He's already done it twice this spring -- more specifically, twice this week.
With Jose Constanza at third base and the Braves down by a run, the 21-year-old outfielder grounded into what looked like a possible game-ending double play to second base. Philadelphia's Cesar Hernandez made the throw home and started the rundown with Constanza, who was eventually tagged out by pitcher Brad Lincoln. That gave the speedy Lipka time to wheel around second base and head for third, forcing a rushed throw from Lincoln that sailed by third baseman Reid Brignac and into left field.
Lipka dashed home and tied the game, earning respect from Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez and the rest of his teammates. Some of them saw him pull off a similar move against the Nationals on Saturday, when he was credited with a single and scored on two errors.
"I liked the other one," Lipka said, "because I had a hit before it."
"It's a great thing to see," added reliever David Carpenter. "Yeah, it's a Spring Training game, but each game is important. You're trying to get yourself prepared right now for the regular seaosn, and guys are going about it the right way. They're busting their butt. He could've just put his head down and trotted to first, and that would be it. But he put his head down and busted his butt to get to third, and it was good baseball."
Likely to start the season with Double-A Mississippi, Lipka said he's just trying to learn as much as possible and maybe open a few eyes during his first stint in Major League Spring Training.
"That's your goal coming down here. I'm not pressing to make the club. I know I'm going to be in Double-A this year," Lipka said. "I'm just coming out here and trying to show these guys what my game's all about, and that's hard-nosed baseball, playing hard, working hard and just hustling on and off the field. To say that I can make an impression on these guys this early, I'm super honored and blessed by that."
And that's just what he's done so far.
"He's been impressive. He scored a run, and the ball was in the infield," Gonzalez said. "He adds that dimension of speed. ... I've been impressed by him, I really have."
Beachy happy with three-inning stint vs. Phils
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Pitching lines may not truly indicate anything in Spring Training, but this one backed up the way Brandon Beachy felt Wednesday afternoon at Bright House Field.
Making his second start of the spring, Beachy struck out a batter and walked one over three innings. The right-hander gave up five hits and two runs while recording only five outs in his Grapefruit League debut, but he said he was more comfortable on the mound in Wednesday's 2-2 tie with the Phillies.
"Absolutely. A lot better than last time out," Beachy said. "Not that the results matter, but I felt better. ... I feel like I'm in a pretty good spot right now."
Beachy is still easing his way back into action in some ways, gradually working in more offspeed pitches as the spring rolls on. He threw a few good changeups this time around, but he continued to focus mostly on his fastball, with a few more two-seamers in the mix than usual.
"I was kind of working on that," Beachy said. "I threw some curveballs -- not very good ones, at all. That's something I'm going to work on. I think I threw one slider. Those are things, as Spring Training progresses, I'll get to those, focus on those a little more. But right now, I'm working on throwing the fastball. There are times I was missing. I was able to make some pitches at other times."
"I thought he had a great mix," added Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez. "I think early on in the game, in the first couple innings, his curveball wasn't as good as we've seen his normal curve. I think that's just him trusting his arm, and I think that'll get better as he goes out there more and more. But his fastball had some good life and his changeup had some depth to it."
Beachy said he had no idea what his velocity was -- his fastball clocked in from 88-91 mph Friday -- but he believed he had better command than he did last time out. Despite what the radar guns may have said Wednesday, Beachy noted, he actually felt stronger as his three-inning outing went on.
"I felt like I had my legs under me a little bit better in the third. That's also part of Spring Training -- getting that rhythm and being able to slow myself down and feel the mechanics a little better," Beachy said. "There's times during the season where those first two innings, you almost feel a little too good."
Beachy said he's still "babying" how he implements his offspeed pitches, but that's generally the final piece of the puzzle anyway. He observed that he's not quite "really letting it go and ripping it," but he obviously expects to do so before the regular season.
Perhaps more important than any of that for Beachy, coming off a frustrating return from Tommy John surgery last season, is the simple fact that he's healthy and pitching like it's a normal Spring Training.
"I was able to go out there and throw three innings and come out of it feeling pretty good," Beachy said. "We'll see how I bounce back tomorrow, and I'll adjust accordingly."
Carpenter submits sharpest effort of spring
CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez was pleased with all his pitchers after Wednesday's 2-2 tie with the Phillies at Bright House Field. And understandably so, as Brandon Beachy and five relievers combined to allow only five hits and one walk while striking out seven.
One of those relievers was right-hander David Carpenter, who put together his sharpest performance of the spring in a perfect eighth inning with two strikeouts. Coming off a breakthrough season with the Braves in 2013, Carpenter induced a quick groundout to first base before striking out Kelly Dugan swinging and Darin Ruf looking.
"Felt good. Went out there and was able to execute pitches, just stuff that [pitching coach Roger McDowell] and I worked on in the bullpen the other day," Carpenter said. "I was able to take it out there in the game. That's always a good sign, especially with being able to command stuff and execute it. That's the name of the game."
Carpenter added that he was "definitely" pleased with how he's feeling at this point of the spring, as he's mostly been working on refining his fastball command, slider and splitter.
"Just trying to give myself a chance to use it a little bit more in games," Carpenter said. "Just kind of keeping that feel, going touch and feel with being able to go out there and confident enough to use it in a game."