LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The expectations for Bruce Chen were so high this spring that nothing short of a perfect March would have satisfied everyone.
But no one expected to see him fall on his face either.
Major league hitters have welcomed the organization's top pitching prospect with open arms, greeting him with 13 hits in six innings and a .419 batting average.
It's hardly the way the left-hander wanted to introduce himself to manager Bobby Cox and pitching coach Leo Mazzone.
"I thought I would do better," Chen said. "I felt like if I threw strikes I could do good, but I kept throwing strikes and they kept hitting them. Now I realize that changing speeds and location is important."
There was little chance that Chen would make the staff here, but no one expected that he'd struggle the way he has either. He has yielded a pair of home runs and has a 12.00 ERA, easily the staff's worst.
Chen, who is only 20 and hasn't pitched above Class A Macon, will probably start the season at Class AA Greenville. He plans to take the lessons he learned here and apply them to the experienced hitters he'll face in the Southern League.
"I think the things I learned here and the experience are really going to help me," he said. "My pitches are there. I feel I have good control. I don't think I have to make a major change. I don't think it's going to take me a whole year to get ready for the majors." ...
"I see better, but I don't see the catcher as early as I'd like because the rims get in the way," he said. "I'd like to be able to pitch with them."
Maddux wears contact lenses only when he pitches and wears glasses off the mound. He's trying to get away from the contacts because he complains they irritate his eyes. Besides the comfort factor, he claims he also sees more clearly, which would benefit his pitching, as well as his hitting.
"I might hit .120 this year instead of .110," he joked. ...
"It feels a lot better," he said. "It actually feels like I can play on it. It's not 100 percent for sure, but I'm a lot closer now."
Graffanino suffered a high ankle sprain on the first day of workouts and has played in only three games. ...
With seven home games remaining, it seems likely the Braves will break their spring training attendance record of 97,754, set in 1996 in West Palm Beach, and finish with an attendance of about 111,000.
"The reaction has been phenomenal," general manager John Schuerholz said. "Everything we hoped for and more. The fans love this place and obviously the numbers reflect that."