LAKELAND, Fla. — Detroit newcomers Joe Nathan and Joba Chamberlain each pitched a scoreless inning to help the Tigers beat the Atlanta Braves 5-2 on Thursday.
Nathan and Chamberlain were brought in to solidify a Tigers bullpen that struggled last season. Chamberlain, who foundered with the Yankees in 2013, had a strikeout. Nathan, who saved 43 games for Texas last year, struck out two. It was the Detroit debut for both.
“I liked what I saw from all of our pitchers today,” rookie manager Brad Ausmus said. “They threw strikes.”
Rick Porcello started for the Tigers and allowed one run in two innings. He struck out three.
Kris Medlen gave up one run in two innings in his spring debut for the Braves. Jason Heyward hit a long homer off Duane Below in his second at-bat.
LONG BALL: Heyward’s home run soared over the right-field fence, a grove of palm trees and finally landed on a building that houses the Tigers’ batting cages.
“I had the perfect swing and I just raked it,” said Heyward, who hit 14 homers last season. “Doing it off a left-handed pitcher made it even better. My swing is taking care of itself.”
STARTING TIME: Medlen, who won a team-high 15 games last season, allowed two hits and struck out one. He said he is just working on mechanics for now.
“I didn’t hurt anything, so that’s good,” Medlen said. “I mixed my pitches and, when I missed, it was down, so that’s exciting.”
TRAINER’S ROOM: Atlanta’s Gerald Laird came out after the first inning with a lower back strain. The catcher said he got hurt while grounding out. He caught the first inning but said his back was bothering him so much he allowed a passed ball. Laird said he was day to day.
Atlanta left fielder Justin Upton missed his second consecutive game with tenderness in his right side. He is also day to day.
MORE FROM THE BULLPEN: Bruce Rondon entered spring training last year with a shot to become the Tigers’ closer, but was one of the final cuts before the team went north. With Nathan entrenched as the closer now, Rondon will be a setup man if he makes the club. In one inning against the Braves, he retired all three batters he faced.