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Santana successfully navigates spring debut

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PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- During his first week with the Braves, Ervin Santana has assumed the appearance of a man who is not fazed by too many things. This approach could prove to be beneficial as he spends the next few weeks patiently awaiting his regular-season debut.

Eight days after signing a one-year, $14.1 million contract, Santana made his first start for the Braves in Thursday afternoon's game against the Mets at Tradition Field. A leadoff bunt led to the only run the veteran hurler surrendered over the two innings he completed in a calm, cool and impressive manner.

One National League scout said Santana's fastball maxed out at 95 mph and touched 94 multiple times. That's pretty impressive considering this was his first start since he ended the 2013 season with the 3.24 ERA he compiled over 32 starts with the Royals.

"The first outing in the National League, it was very good," Santana said. "I'm very happy with my performance today."

Although Santana was able to build his arm strength while completing bullpen sessions during his final weeks as a free agent, he might not have focused on the pitcher-fielding drills that might have better prepared him for the bunt single Eric Young Jr. notched to begin the bottom of the first inning.

Ruben Tejada followed with a single that put runners on the corners and set the stage for David Wright to score Young with a sacrifice fly to right field. The first inning concluded with Curtis Granderson producing a sharp grounder that resulted in a double play that was started and completed by first baseman Ernesto Mejia.

Santana then worked a perfect second that concluded when hung a slider to Travis d'Arnaud and then breathed a sigh of relief when the Mets catcher hit a fly ball to left fielder Justin Upton.

"I thought it was a good outing for him," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "He hasn't pitched for a while, and he comes into camp a little bit behind. He did a nice job out there. You can tell he is a professional."

Santana will be scheduled to complete three innings when he makes his next start on Tuesday against the Tigers in Lakeland, Fla. The 31-year-old right-hander will then likely make what could be his final two exhibition season starts in Minor League games.

The Braves are aiming for Santana to join their starting rotation around the same time they will be forced to go to a five-man rotation near the end of the regular season's second week.

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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