Hanson scheduled to pitch exhibition season finale in Atlanta
Tommy Hanson is coming to Atlanta. Well sort of. Hanson and Kenshin Kawakami are scheduled to pitch next Saturday’s exhibition game against the Tigers at Turner Field.
With the Braves opening the season in Philadelphia the next night, manager Bobby Cox won’t want to use any of his projected relievers. Thus Kawakami will pitch the first four or five innings and Hanson will likely handle the next four innings.
This will put Hanson in line to be the Opening Day starter for the Triple-A Gwinnett team that will begin its season on April 9 at Charlotte. The relocated team will play its first game in Gwinnett on April 17. If the schedule holds true Hanson’s first home start would occur on April 20.
Cox plans to announce his rotation on Sunday. Kawakami’s season debut could come during April 10 home opener at Turner Field. Or the Braves could keep projected Opening Day starter Derek Lowe on schedule and allow him to pitch that game. This would mean Kawakami’s season debut might actually occur on April 11 against the Nats.
While pitching in next Saturday’s exhibition game against the Tigers, Kawakami will have a chance to acquaint himself with the Turner Field mound.
Kawakami will make his final Grapefruit League start on Monday afternoon when he faces Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Braves hurler has only previously opposed Dice-K came during Spring Training games in Japan.
When asked how many media members will likely cover Monday’s game, Kawakami smiled and said “It is Japan.” Or at least that’s what his interpreter told me that he said.
Today’s games: Jair Jurrjens is going to face a Yankees lineup that includes Derek Jeter, Johnny Damon and Mark Teixeira. Peter Moylan is scheduled to complete one inning during a Minor League game this afternoon. Moylan will make two more appearances within the next six days and if everything goes well, he’ll begin the season in Atlanta’s bullpen.
After Jurrjens exits this afternoon’s game, Boone Logan and Mike Gonzalez are scheduled to pitch. Logan has had two consecutive rough outings and Gonzalez is coming off an appearance during which he surrendered three earned runs and then raved about the increased velocity that he’d displayed.
We’ll be watching the radar readings when Gonzalez takes the mound to pitch in front of a sold-out crowd. Fans have already covered most of the grass on the left field berm.
Left-handed relievers: The Braves released left-handed reliever Jeff Ridgway this morning. Ridgway battled elbow inflammation most of this month and really never figured into the Braves plans after they acquired Logan and Eric O’Flaherty during the offseason.
O’Flaherty enjoyed a impressive rebound effort on Friday, when he recorded two strikeouts in a scoreless inning against the Tigers. He had surrendered nine runs and nine hits in his previous outing.
Braves general manager Frank Wren has provided no indication that he’s felt the need to explore ways to find veteran left-handed reliever to add to his bullpen mix. O’Flaherty has had just the one bad outing and Logan will have a chance to end his recent struggles this afternoon.
There’s still a chance that both of these left-handed relievers will begin the year in Atlanta’s bullpen.
Former Angels: First baseman Casey Kotchman, who has been sick and sidelined since April 18, took batting practice on Saturday and might return to the lineup on Monday. His former Angels teammate Garret Anderson is expected to return to action on Sunday. Anderson has been sidelined since March 6 with a strained right calf.
Jordan Schafer CF
Yunel Escobar SS
Chipper Jones 3B
Brian McCann C
Greg Norton 1B
Matt Diaz RF
Brandon Jones LF
Martin Prado 2B
Jair Jurrjens P