LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- When asked about Ryan Buchter earlier this week, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez pointed out that the left-hander's inconsistent command has been the primary reason he has not reached the big league level since joining the professional ranks in 2005.
After watching Buchter issue a walk that led to the one run he allowed in Wednesday's Grapefruit League opener against the Tigers, Gonzalez playfully suggested the southpaw might force him to pick up a bad habit.
"If he keeps doing that a couple more times, I'm going to have to pick up smoking or something," Gonzalez said in jest. "At least he looked good against left-handers. That was a plus side."
In other words, Buchter lived up to his billing as a pitcher who gives left-handed hitters fits and frustrates managers with his tendency to give opponents free baserunners.
While producing a 2.76 ERA in 62 innings with Triple-A Gwinnett last season, Buchter recorded 103 strikeouts and issued 51 walks. The 27-year-old reliever's candidacy for a spot in Atlanta's bullpen was strengthened as he limited left-handed hitters to a .124 (11-for-89) batting average and a .286 on-base percentage.
Buchter stands as the most likely internal candidate if the Braves opt to open the season with a left-handed specialist in their bullpen. But the club is expected to keep its options open by spending the next month scouring the trade market in search of a southpaw who could fill the role.
Beachy taking long view after spring debut
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Given that he is a highly competitive perfectionist, Brandon Beachy did not have much fun as he attempts to moderate his effort level during the early portion of the Grapefruit League season. But coming off an injury-marred season, the Braves right-hander also knows it will be in his best interest to do so.
"It's not going to be easy," Beachy said. "I don't like giving up hits and runs. That's not fun. But I'm trying to have a big-picture mentality."
Beachy's comments came after he surrendered five hits and allowed two runs while recording just five outs in Friday night's game against the Astros at Champion Stadium. Slated to complete two innings, he was removed when he exceeded his prescribed pitch limit (40) in the process of allowing Dexter Fowler's two-run, bases-loaded single in the second inning.
"These first few [starts], I'm going to be more concerned with tomorrow morning than anything that happens tonight," Beachy said. "We'll see tomorrow morning. I'm pretty optimistic."
Beachy was limited to five starts as he experienced a frustration-filled return from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery last season. But since having a bone chip removed from his right elbow in September, the 27-year-old hurler has gained reason to be encouraged things will be different this season. He has not experienced anything more than normal soreness since he began throwing in January.
"I'm just going to keep going out there and do what the training staff tells me to do," Beachy said. "I feel pretty confident in the way I've been feeling and the way I'm going to feel. I've got April and October in mind, and not today."
During his early exhibition-season starts, Beachy will throw a limited number of breaking balls and steadily increase his effort level. His fastball sat between 88-91 mph during Friday's 43-pitch effort. According to FanGraphs, the average velocity of his fastball was 92 mph in 2011 and 91 mph in 2012, which was the year he underwent Tommy John surgery.
"Today is the hardest I've tried to throw," Beachy said. "I'd like to think I can throw harder than I did tonight. But it's early. Hopefully by the end of this month, I'll be throwing harder than I did tonight, and be ready to go in April."
• Justin Upton is expected to make his exhibition-season debut on Sunday. Upton was bothered by soreness in his right side earlier this week.
• Gonzalez was not too concerned after watching highly regarded pitching prospect J.R. Graham allow three hits, including a pair of doubles, while recording just two outs in Friday's loss to the Astros. Graham was pitching in a game for the first time since May, when he began battling the right shoulder soreness that sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
• Craig Kimbrel had a solid debut on Friday night as he pitched around a double and recorded a pair of strikeouts in a scoreless fourth inning against the Astros.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.