LAKELAND, Fla. — Aaron Harang made his Atlanta Braves debut, allowing six runs, including a long homer to Miguel Cabrera, while pitching into the sixth inning of a 9-3 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Thursday.
Harang, who won 16 games in 2006 and '07, was signed by the Braves on March 24 after spending the start of spring training with the Cleveland Indians. He allowed eight hits in 5 2-3 innings.
"I have my stuff together and I know how it is going to go," Harang said. "I really wanted a chance to pitch to (Braves catcher) Evan Gattis. I've been feeling good and I just wanted to get my pitch count up. That's what I wanted to do all spring."
Max Scherzer made his final start of the spring for the Tigers and went 6 2-3 innings, giving up homers to Jordan Schafer and B.J. Upton.
Tigers shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who was acquired from the Baltimore Orioles on Monday, went 2 for 3 with a double to raise his spring batting average to .441.
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said he was fine with Harang's effort. The Braves are in serious need of starting pitching after losing Brandon Beachy and Kris Medlen for the season as they each have Tommy John surgery for the second time. Mike Minor is out for the first month and the Braves released Freddy Garcia on Monday. Erwin Santana was signed March 12 to join a staff with only Alex Wood and Julio Teheran as remaining starters.
Braves RHP Cory Gearrin, who left his outing on Tuesday with a right elbow strain, was headed back to Atlanta for further evaluation.
Cabrera's home run off of Harang would have cleared the berm that runs beyond the left field fence at Joker Marchant Stadium if a fan didn't make an overhead catch at the top of the berm. Harang said the homer came on a changeup and that he had also given up a long homer to Cabrera last season when Harang pitched for Seattle.
Off to a good start
The Braves had to be concerned with Dan Uggla and B.J. Upton, both of whom had difficult seasons at the plate last year. Upton, who came from Tampa Bay as a free agent, batted only .184, and Uggla hit .179. This spring, Upton is batting .267 and his homer off Scherzer was his first of the spring. Uggla is batting .269 with four homers.
"I like what I am seeing from both of them," Gonzalez said. "They are hitting the baseball and we are getting a lot out of them."