"I just didn't have good stuff today," said Cormier, who allowed eight earned runs and nine hits in just four innings. "Some days you're going to have good stuff and some days you don't. It's a battle when you don't."
It was a battle from the outset for Cormier, who found himself with an inconsistent curveball and a cut fastball that simply didn't cut. Thus, when he got ahead of DeRosa with a 1-2 count in the first inning, he didn't possess the ability to display either of these out-pitches -- both of which had helped him limit opponents to just two earned runs in the 15 2/3 innings he completed in Spring Training.
"His cutter wasn't as sharp as it's been in the past and that's usually his go-to out-pitch," said catcher Brian McCann, whose two-out seventh-inning single helped the Braves score their only run of the afternoon against Cubs starter Sean Marshall, who scattered three singles over the course of the first six innings.
With a doubleheader scheduled against the Marlins on Tuesday, the Braves, who won four of six on this road trip, will need to keep Cormier around for at least one more start. But because he still can be sent to the Minors without going through waivers, there's a chance that Friday's start against the Cubs at Turner Field will be his final one in the Majors for at least a brief while.
Buddy Carlyle, who is scheduled to pitch the first game of Tuesday's twinbill, can't be sent back to Triple-A Richmond without going through waivers. Because they fear he'd be picked up by another organization, the Braves may choose to keep him in the rotation, instead of Cormier.
"Five days from now, it could be a different story," said Cormier, who missed the season's first two months because of a strained right triceps muscle. "I'm pretty sure I'm going to have better stuff than I did today."
Cormier surrendered three consecutive one-out first inning singles and then was fortunate that Jacque Jones' hot shot to the right side hit Aramis Ramirez, resulting in a dead-ball out. The Braves right-hander then saw a 1-2 count against DeRosa go full. One pitch later, the popular former Brave drilled his second career grand slam over the center-field wall.
"It looked like he was going to get out of it," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "He got DeRo 3-2 and it went right down the middle. It got us off to a rough start."
Cormier, who surrendered five homers in the final 20 2/3 innings that he pitched in Atlanta last year, saw his longball struggles continue. Alfonso Soriano hit a 1-2 fastball over the left-field wall for a two-out, second-inning homer. Then, Derrek Lee took the right-hander deep with a 3-2 pitch to begin the bottom of the third.
"My arm feels fine," Cormier said. "I just have to get back to where I can repeat pitches and get my cutter working again. I also need to be sharper with my curveball and spot my fastball."
Soriano began the fifth inning with a triple off the center-field wall, and when Felix Pie followed with a shattered-bat double to right field, Cormier's day was complete. It wasn't one that he'd envisioned, especially after ending his rehab stint on Tuesday by throwing 6 2/3 scoreless innings for Triple-A Richmond against Rochester.
"The confidence was there," Cormier said. "I had really good stuff my last rehab outing. I woke up thinking that same stuff was going to be there and it just wasn't there."
Through the first six innings, Marshall, who was making just his third start of the season, didn't allow a baserunner to advance past first base. Consecutive two-out singles by McCann and Diaz in the seventh inning scored Jeff Francoeur with the only run of the day for the Braves.
"He didn't throw anything straight," McCann said. "It was just one of those things where we couldn't get anything going."