KISSIMMEE, Fla. — While a bunch of aging stars try to get healthy, the New York Yankees have a chance to check out their younger players at spring training.
Zoilo Almonte homered and threw out a runner from right field, Francisco Cervelli began his pitch to win the catching job, and David Phelps threw two scoreless innings as New York defeated the bumbling Atlanta Braves 8-3 in its spring training opener on Saturday.
Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira were about the only big names making the trip for the Yankees, with Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, CC Sabathia and Mariano Riviera among those still in various stages of rehab.
“I’m never going to say that injuries are a good thing,” New York manager Joe Girardi said. “But this will give the kids a chance to grow up a little bit.”
Cano also homered for the Yankees, who took advantage of three Atlanta errors and a passed ball.
The one bright spot for the Braves was Evan Gattis, trying to win a job as a backup catcher and outfielder. He doubled to set up Atlanta’s first run, then drove a two-run homer halfway up the left-field berm in the sixth, cutting the Yankees’ lead to 5-3.
Atlanta starter Paul Maholm pitched two hitless innings.
• The Braves appear to be setting up their rotation to have Kris Medlen start on Opening Day, followed by Mike Minor, Tim Hudson, Maholm and most likely Julio Teheran, who will start today against the Pirates in Bradenton, Fla.
NATIONALS: Stephen Strasburg had a rocky return to the mound in his first outing since Washington shut him down last September to protect his arm.
Strasburg gave up a single and a full-count homer to the first two batters he faced, and the New York Mets beat Washington 5-3 in a spring training opener.
Kirk Nieuwenhuis led off the Mets’ first inning with a single and Ruben Tejada followed with a two-run shot that the wind carried over the left-center fence.
The right-hander rebounded with a 1-2-3 second inning.
BREWERS: Ryan Braun quickly got into the swing of spring.
The Milwaukee slugger homered in his first at-bat of the exhibition season and the Brewers beat the Oakland Athletics 2-1.
DODGERS: Clayton Kershaw got off to a shaky start in his spring debut for Los Angeles in a 9-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
The 2011 NL Cy Young winner allowed two runs and four hits in two innings.