Smoltz returns to Braves camp

One day shy of the four-year anniversary of the trade that sent him to the Rays in exchange for Jorge Sosa, Nick Green has returned to Disney’s Wide World of Sports complex.   The likeable infielder will start at short for the Red Sox this afternoon and it appears that he’ll begin the season on Boston’s 25-man roster. 

Of course Green’s return to Disnsy was upstaged by some guy named Smoltz, who popped into the Braves clubhouse around 8 a.m. this morning to shoot the breeze with Bobby Cox and some of his former teammates and coaches.   This afternoon, he’s going to play a round of golf with his friend that everyone simply knows as Tiger. 

When Smoltz entered the Braves dugout this morning, he was wearing a pair of Red Sox shorts.  Things will really start to seem odd in June when he’s standing on a mound and pitching in games that matter for the Red Sox. 

Once he proves that his surgically-repaired shoulder is sound, Smoltz will join Boston’s rotation and I will guarantee that he’ll positioned to ensure he’ll start one of the games the Red Sox play at Turner Field  (June 26-June 28). 

When he called last night to make sure that I was well aware of the fact that his Michigan State Spartans had advanced to the Final Four, Smoltz asked a number of questions about the Braves.    Obviously, when you’ve spent the previous 21 seasons in an organziation, it’s difficult to break the attachment.  

While he might physically be part of a different orgnaization, Smoltz will forever be a Brave.  Even while he spent those five seasons with the Mets, I couldn’t help but view Tom Glavine as anything other than a Brave. 

More than 20 years since they were first introduced to each other during Spring Training with the Braves, Smoltz and Glavine crossed paths again on Monday morning. 

“I walked in, saw him on the trainer’s table and said, “OK, you’re right where you need to be,” Smoltz said. 

Braves manager Bobby Cox is still evaluating how his lineup will look at the beginning of the season.  But with Garret Anderson, Chipper Jones and Brian McCann in the same lineup for the first time today, I think we can gather that he’s leaning toward batting Kelly Johnson in the leadoff spot putting McCann in the cleanup spot to protect Chipper. 

Today’s lineup:
Kelly Johnson 2B
Yunel Escobar SS
Chipper Jones 3B
Brian McCann C
Garret Anderson DH
Jeff Francoeur RF
Casey Kotchman 1B
Matt Diaz LF
Jordan Schafer CF

 

51 Comments

Anyone else think this could be our opening day lineup – without DH, of course. Anderson or Diaz would have to be removed (and frankly, I’m not sure which should be)

Schafer’s starting again….My impression would be that the brass is starting to tip their hand a bit more since they seem to now clearly be giving him more playing time than Anderson or Blanco (who seems to be playing very little, there’s no injury?). If that was the opening day line-up, I’d be happy, though I can’t blame the Braves if they do what others have suggested and start Schafer in the minors just to keep the arb. clock from running.

Does it feel like the Japanese World Series down there today? I bet it is a media circus.

I’m with bravenorth on this one. I think this WILL be our interleague starting lineup, barring injuries. Although Chipper might be DH, so swap Infante w/ Diaz in the batting order. But for NL games, this is pretty d@mn close.
NORMAL GAMES
Kelly (2)
Escobar (ss)
Chipper (3)
Mac (C)
G. Anderson (LF)
Frenchy (RF)
Kotchman (1)
Schafer/Blanco (not decided on this one yet) (CF)
Pitcher
not gonna make predictions for IL, too many options at the moment and it’s not for awhile

I would love for Smoltz to be about 10-1 this season (loss in ATL in June of course). I just don’t have a good feeling that the shoulder will hold up when he starts to let it go for real. I hope it does and he gets his trip to October.

Sorry, I’ve been busy with a few things and haven’t been able to keep you updated… So far Kawakami has produced his finest effort of the Spring. With this matchup against Dice-K, I think we might be seeing why he’s been considered a pitcher who can rise to the big occasion. I’m not saying a Spring Training game is big. But you better believe that he understands how much attention this start is drawing in Japan.

In two at-bats against Dice-K, Francoeur has struck out as many times as he previously had all Spring…Garret Anderson has made solid contact during his two at-bats, but he forgot how many outs there were when he got doubled-up on a second-inning infield pop fly.

Anyone have any possible trades you can think up?

My projected lineup for Sunday night and I do anticipate that Hamels will be starting for the Phillies.
Kelly Johnson 2B Yunel Escobar SS Chipper Jones Brian McCann Garret Anderson LF Jeff Francoeur Casey Kotchman Jordan Schafer Derek Lowe

In other words (minus the DH), what you see today is essentially what you’ll get on Sunday night.

Mark, of what nature were Frenchy’s Ks? Last-year Jeff or Dice-K being Dice-K?

I’m really looking forward to this coming season I think we are going to surprise a lot of people

OK. I’m done providing the jinx factor. Baldelli just hit a two-run homer off Kawakami….I’d say Francoeur’s Ks were simply Dice-K being Dice-K.

Josh Anderson has been traded to the Tigers for right-handed pitcher Rudy Darrow…Darrow went 5-3 with a 2.02 ERA in 47 appearances with Class A Erie and Double-A West Michigan last year

What inning is it in? I’m pretty sure that the boxscore is either behind or wrong

Nvm it updated

Does that mean that Schafer gets the job? I saw they just took him out of the game maybe to tell him he has won the CF job

I hope Anderson gets things going for him.

I’m at a bit of loss what the Tigers will do with Anderson given that Granderson is in CF for them, Guillen is in LF, and Ordonez is in RF. I guess he can help them rotate through the DH spot to keep them all fresh.

ha, I’m just having fun saying Anderson-Granderson… nice

It would seem Acosta was “accosted”. Get it up, get it ripped. That’s the way it works.

Of course, Schafer gets the job. Blanco was really never a factor. He is Gwinnett bound unless he gets moved as well. He probably opened some eyes at the WBC, so maybe he gets a chance somewhere else.

Nice 9th inning rally again. Way to go Braves.

What happened?

It looks like Norton doubled and Prado knocked him in with a single. I can’t tell from the box score any more than that.

Two more doubles in the 10th and the Braves go home happy, 4-3.

I hate this live box score b/s. I WANT GAMEDAY BACK!!! Gameday…what people who can’t afford mlb.tv do. Mark, I have a question for you. Do you have any idea as to what happened to make Bobby want to put Mac in the cleanup spot? I remember him being pretty adamate about keeping him in the 5 spot.

If any one cares Andrew Jones is 2-3 with a double, homerun so far today and batting .300.

Here’s some odds and ends to chew on tonight: Looks like Joe Blanton or Brett Myers will be starting for the Phillies on Sunday night…Garret Anderson will play LF tomorrow night. He served as the DH the past two days…Rafael Soriano is going to throw a bullpen session tomorrow. With the uncertainty that he brings, the Braves might not end up trading a pitcher. They had contemplated moving Jeff Bennett before he suddenly relocated his sinker while slowing down his delivery recently.

That’s cool. Dunno why, but I kinda like Bennett. Maybe it’s because of his versatility as a spot starter and middle to long relief. I’m definitely pulling more for him than Soriano, who just seems to get worse and worse as time progresses. He was pretty dominant working with Wickman, but it’s all been downhill since.

A case could be made that Bennett was our most consistent reliever last year, all things considered, all season long. Like some of the others, he suffered from being overworked. I’d rather see us keep him and move Acosta or Soriano (who’s overpaid unless he regains his 98 mph fastball). I still think Soriano for Xavier Nady (their salaries are similar) would be a good deal for both teams, provided that Nady could make the move back to center. The Yankees have an overabundance of outfielders (Nady, Johnny Damon, the kid Gardner who won the cf job, Melky Cabrerra, Hidecki Matsui and Nick Swisher) and they need a right-hand setup man … something we have an overabundance of. But I’m also looking forward to seeing Schafer patrol cf.

Btw, I’m a long-time season-ticket holder with great seats and have some tickets available, my login is my email if you’re interested.

When do you think they are gonna come out with Schafers jersey? Thats gonna be a great jersey to have.

I just wandered through the stat sheet and realized Jeff Francoeur is leading the Braves in walks this Spring. I’m really not sure what to make of that. He’s also leading in RBI, second in Runs, and has gone 17 for his last 38 batting mostly against the starters, .333 overall, and has gunned down every runner who had the urge to be on his highlight reel.
Oh wait, I know what to make of it, he doesn’t SUCK!!!!

Looks like the Chipper contract extension could be announced as early as tomorrow. My story is posted on MLB.com and braves.com….sorry i have kind of neglected this blog while working on the day.

I heard an interview with Tom Glavine today on 680 the Fan. He said his arm was feeling pretty bad during the first part of the spring but it’s feeling fine now. He said he’s able to go out and feel good about what he’s going to be able to do every day, unlike last year when sometimes he was experiencing too much pain to be able to even feel good about pitching. He said as long as he’s able to locate his pitches and change speeds he’ll be fine. He’s in the 79-81 zone right now (which we all know) and he’d like to build his arm strength back up to where he can throw 83-84, but if it doesn’t happen he says he’ll still be able to pitch effectively. Overall, he seemed very optimistic. He’s pitching Wednesday and then in 2 minor league rehab starts before he makes his start for the big club on April 18th. He’ll throw 60 pitches (~5 innings) on Wednesday.

Cole Hamels won’t make start Sunday against Braves
Contra Costa Times – Walnut Creek,CA,USA

Cole Hamels needs to keep his smart@$$ mouth shut. I hate the Mets as much as anyone but Hamels should concentrate on proving himself to be a true ace and proving that the Phillies are a serious team to be considered a challenge. I bets the Mets are laughing their rear-ends off right now because karma slapped him in the face. Too bad the Mets are probably the second most overrated team in baseball, behind the Angels. I think the NL east is going to be very interesting this year. The NL East, NL Central, and AL East are going to be awesomely entertaining this season.

Cole Hamels better hope his arm is fine. The Phillies are going to need a whole lot better than another 14-10 season out of him if they hope to compete in the NLEast with that pitching staff. There are people who would come out of retirement just to hit off of some of the rag arms they have this year. And with JuiCe-y Romero out for a while, they are living on the Lidge for sure. Psychologically Lidge should be interesting once he falls back to earth this season. Closer have a very short shelf life.

Happ & Park have both had decent Springs for the Phillies as far as the back of their rotation goes. With their offense they really just need an average pitching staff to compete. I’m looking forward to that opening series vs. Philly. I wonder how many pitches Lowe will get tonight since it’s his last start of the Spring.

I think he said after last game that he was at the point now where he wants game situation to dictate whether he comes out or not, as opposed to pitch count. Which sounds like he is ready in his mind.
My guess is that he’ll go until he gets in a good groove, and then leave on a positive before he gets too deep. I’m assuming there are a few guys pitching for their jobs that need a couple more trips to the mound before the Braves go north.
It has been eerily quiet around Buddy Carlyle lately. I wonder what that means….Mark?

Thanks for the intro Rother. It was time to take a break from season preview/ Chipper stuff. You’re right, we haven’t mentioned much about Buddy lately and I think that’s a good thing for Buddy. More importantly, Buddy has established himself as one of Bobby’s favorites and that’s one of the primary reasons he wasn’t traded. I think we can certainly expect to see him and Jorge Campillo on the Opening Day roster.
Assuming Soriano is ready, my projected eight relievers who will start the season are Gonzalez, Soriano, Moylan, Boyer, O’Flaherty, Buddy, Campillo and Bennett.
A lot has changed in the last week. Logan and Acosta haven’t been impressive and Bennett has relocated that sinker that Bobby loves to utilize when he needs a double play late in the game.

Mark – How will Blanco take a demotion to AAA?

I still say the best route to go in regards to the pen is to move Bennett right now.

We will need to make a move when Glavine rejoins the rotation.

If we can get a middling minor league prospect for Bennett now is the time to act.

With his skill set and a full year of being a very average Major Leaguer, I would hope Greg White is all about getting paid to play anywhere and not getting all pissy. A guy with no power, not even gap power, an average glove, and some speed that he is unwilling to use on the bases in game conditions, is destined for either AAA or the Braves graveyard in KC.
Sad but true.
Not to mention by June he will be behind another wave of capable young Braves with a larger upside, i.e., Heyward and company.
For Blanco, see Barbaro Canizares as well. Some skills, but not enough to make good teams, which the Braves have become since last season. We call them AAAA players.

I don’t know if I’d write off Blanco just yet but we do have other up and coming outfielders. What is he, 25? He’s listed at 5’11″, 170lbs. so he could probably bulk up a little and maybe his power numbers will improve. I think he held his own at the WBC so maybe there is still a chance that Wren could trade him. Other than more young pitching arms, with Chipper re-signing maybe a trade for a 3b prospect who’s at the “A” level is a possibility. I wouldn’t trade for a future catcher prospect since we seem to do so well drafting them.

AAAA players create the logjam that every GM has to deal with every year. They can block the rising stars from getting through the system as full speed and they can, in the case of the 2007 Braves, produce a very poor bench with very limited options for the Major League club. This group is the Pete Orr, Ryan Langerhans, Bryan Pena, Corky Miller, and a large handfull of the recent Braves pitchers types. Decent AAA players all, but never going to be quality Major Leaguers at a level necessary to win in the show.

If Blanco goes “Furcal” on the Braves to try to make the club, he will be utterly useless to them. Not to mention he would eventually get the 50 game vacation if he successfully made that “transition” to the kind of player he needs to be to stick.

Going “Furcal” is defined as consistently showing off your warning track power to get from 5 or 6 HR to 10 or 12, and watching the number of quality at bats and quality outs dwindle to a level where the player is a liability in that mode.

Willie Harris did that in the second half of the year he started so well for the Braves. Which is why he is in Washington now.

Anybody want Gary Sheffield back? He is now available? Big right hand power bat….Not Jim Edmonds, but….

I will pass on Gary. He was a great piece for the Braves years back, but the only way I would want him back is if he came at the league minimum. Same for Andruw.
http://darion.mlblogs.com/

Even at league minimum he is a cancer waiting to be sprung on whoever gets him, a true Narcissist at heart. Probably even talks about himself in the third person.

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