March 2009

Kawakami scratched

This is essentially the same blog as the one that I posted earlier. But with the revelation that Kenshin Kawakami has been scratched from tonight’s start because of right shoulder fatigue, I’m adding this top.

Javier Vazquez will start in his place.  Vazquez, who pitched against the U.S. on Saturday, will be pitching on regular rest. 

I’ll provide more details when I come back upstairs.  Kawakami is expected to talk to the media at 4:30 p.m. ET.

(NOW BACK TO THE ORIGINAL BLOG)

So I sent some of the guys a text this morning to find out who they
were picking to win the NCAA tourney.  Always the prompt professional,
Tom Glavine quickly revealed that he’s predicting Louisville to emerge
victorious in a Final Four field that will also include Memphis, Pitt
and North Carolina.

A few minutes later, Jeff Francoeur said
that he believes that UNC or Louisville will win it all.  Then John
Smoltz attempted to have some fun by saying that his Michigan State
Spartans, West Virginia, Syracuse and Pitt will participate in the
Final Four. 

Smoltz knows how much I dislike both Pitt and
Syracuse (primarily for the crime Marvin Graves committed during a 1992
game in Morgantown).  As an MSU fan, I guess he couldn’t bring himself
to truly make my blood boil with mention of that Ann Arbor school that
currently employs that once highly-regarded football coach. 

After
enjoying his laugh, Smoltz revealed his true Final Four prediction
consists of UNC, Villanova, MSU and Memphis.  Respecting my elders, I
wouldn’t have called him if Cal St. Northridge had held on to win their
first-round matchup against Memphis.

Now that we’ve all finished
our bracket selections, it’s time to look at some of the tough roster
decisions the Braves have to make.  By the time I take this laptop back
to Atlanta in two weeks, we may have a better idea about who will begin
the season as the starting center fielder.

Based on what I’ve
seen, Jordan Schafer has clearly established himself as the
front-runner in this competition.  The 22-year-old prospect is the best
defensive option and his speed/power capabilities make him more
attractive in the leadoff spot than Josh Anderson or Gregor Blanco.

But
some guys who have been around this game much longer than I have seem
to think Schafer could benefit from the opportunity to spend some more
time in the Minors.  From a business perspective, this would help the
Braves, who don’t want to start his arbitration-eligible clock any
earlier than necessary. 

Anderson is certainly capable of
handling the position and the role of leadoff hitter.  The fact that
he’s out of options also aids his bid to win this position battle.  But
I’ve also been told not to eliminate Gregor Blanco, who has spent the
past couple of weeks with Venezuela in the WBC. 

With Tom
Glavine not needed until April 18, I’m expecting the Braves will begin
the season with eight relievers.   Assuming Peter Moylan is healthy and
Cox is comfortable with the fact that he might not be available for
back-to-back appearances during the early weeks of the season: I’d say
the early bullpen locks are: Mike Gonzalez, Rafael Soriano, Moylan,
Blaine Boyer, Eric O’Flaherty and Boone Logan. 

Jeff Bennett,
Manny Acosta, Jorge Campillo, Buddy Carlyle, Kris Medlen will be
battling for one of those final two spots.   My expectation is that at
least one of these hurlers will be traded. 

Also with Jo-Jo
Reyes pitching well, there’s seemingly less reason to send Campillo to
Triple-A Gwinnett to remain conditioned as a starter.  So I would have
to say, I’m guessing Campillo begins the season in Atlanta.

With
Bennett and Acosta available the final spot, it also would make sense
to let Medlen gain more seasoning as a starter at the Triple-A level.  
But I think we’ll be seeing him in Atlanta at some point this year. 

The Braves haven’t announced tonight’s lineup yet. I’ll post it in the comments section later.

In
case you were wondering, my Final Four predictions are West Virginia,
Oklahoma, Missouri and Pitt.  But when WVU plays my alma mater tomorrow
at 3 p.m., you better believe that I’ll be pulling for Dayton.      

Can I still claim Dale Murphy as my favorite player?

When we were about eight-years-old, my best friend, Steve Myers, adopted Dale Murphy as his favorite player. Ignoring the globalized options provided by TBS, I stayed within the region and tabbed Pirates catcher Tony Pena.

More than 25 years later, it’s still obvious that I ended up on the short-end of this selection process.  While Pena taught us bad technique to utilize behind the plate, Murphy has spent his entire life proving to be a great example on and off the field.  

Murphy arrived in camp this morning and he’ll stay with the Braves over the course of the next week to essentially serve as an ambassador/special instructor.  The 53-year-old, two-time National League Most Valuable Player remains one of the kindest and most considerate individuals ever to be associated with baseball. 

I spent some time talking to Murphy and Bobby Dews about the days they spent together in the Minors.  I’ll provide more information in a story that I’m writing later this afternoon.  But to provide a teaser, I’ll let you know that it will include details about a day when Dews attempted to kick dirt toward an umpire and ended up breaking his foot. 

Transitioning from one of the most beloved outfielders in Atlanta history to the newest one, you’ll be glad to hear that Garret Anderson plans to resume running exercises on Friday.  The 36-year-old left fielder has been sidelined since March 6 with a strained right calf.  It still looks like he could return to action some time next week.

Jair Jurrjens and Mike Gonzalez are both scheduled to pitch today against the WBC-less Mets, whose lineup is headlined by Marlon Anderson, Daniel Murphy and Ryan Church.  While not providing any predictions about the game, I’ll guarantee you that Church will be getting down if he’s sliding into second base with Yunel Escobar attempting to turn a double play. 

Both teams will be wearing green hats today.  And with that, I’ll say Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Today’s Lineup
Yunel Escobar SS
Kelly Johnson 2B
Matt Diaz LF
Casey Kotchman 1B
Jeff Francoeur RF
Omar Infante 3B
David Ross C
Josh Anderson CF
Jair Jurrjens P 

Did you really want Peavy?

Instead of bashing Jake Peavy when he comes to Turner Field this year, Braves fans might want to thank him for the fact that he had no desire to pitch in Atlanta. 

While watching Puerto Rico’s 11-1 win over the U.S. Dolphin Stadium last night, I started to draw comparisons between Peavy and Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington.  But I eventually concluded that  Pennington hadn’t got hit nearly as hard by Ray Lewis and the rest of the Ravens defense during this year’s playoffs. 

Had the Braves acquired Peavy via trade, they would have paid him at least $63 million over the next four seasons.   When you’re dishing out that kind of coin, you’d at least like to have some confidence that he’ll be answer the bell when you need him in big games.

While the sample size is small it’s still somewhat alarming to know that Peavy is 0-3 with a 9.53 ERA (22 2/3 innings, 24 earned runs)  in the six combined career starts he’s made during the postseason and the World Baseball Classic.

Instead of Peavy, the Braves ended up with Derek Lowe, who is 6-5 with a 3.33 ERA in 21 career postseason appearances (10 starts).   Over the course of eight days in 2004, Lowe won a Game 7 start at Yankee Stadium and tossed seven scorless innings to allow the Red Sox to clinch their first World Series in 86 years. 

When Lowe takes the mound at Disney this afternoon, he’s not going to be feeding off his “big-game” adrenaline.  But the Astros, who are 1-13-1, might look at this afternoon’s game a little different.  Frustrated by his team’s struggles, manager Cecil Cooper required every position player make the short trip across Osceola Parkway. 

After Lowe exits today’s game, Peter Moylan will continue his Sunday afternoon tradition of making a Grapefruit League appearance.   His only two previous appearances this year have occurred on Sundays. 

Before this development, the only thing linking the tatooed Australian to the NFL was the fact that his arms are as decorative as Kyle Turley’s.  

You probably best remember Turley as the Saints offensive lineup who imitated Moylan’s sidearm delivery while tossing a Jets helmet across the field during a nationally-televised game.

While pitching against the Phillies last week, Moylan looked tremendous and gave more reason to believe he might indeed be ready by Opening Day.  But the Braves will remain cautious with the right-handed reliever, who is just a little more than 10 months removed from Tommy John surgery. 

Rafael Soriano is also scheduled to make his second Grapefruit League appearance this afternoon. 

Other than finding out where Dayton will be bracketed in the NCAA tournament, I’d have to say the appearances made by Moylan and Soriano will be the most important developments of the day.

The Braves are expected to announce their next round of cuts later today or on Monday.  James Parr, who impressed with four strikeouts in 2 1/3 scoreless innings against the Marlins on Friday, has already been informed that he’s heading to Minor League camp.

“I did everything that I could do,” said a distraught Parr, who allowed one run in 7 1/3 Grapefruit League innings. 

With a little more than two weeks left before the start of the regular season, the Braves may attempt to take advantage of their pitching depth via trade.  While he might not net a return greater than a mid-level Minor League prospect, Buddy Carlyle has been receiving some attention from clubs looking to improve their bullpen. 

Anderson update:  Garret Anderson hasn’t started running yet.  But the veteran outfielder, who has been sidelined since March 6, continues to be encouraged about the improvement of his strained right calf.   It’s starting to look like he could be available for the final two weeks of the exhibition season.

Today’s lineup:
Jordan Schafer CF
Yunel Escobar SS
Kelly Johnson 2B
Matt Diaz LF
Jeff Francoeur RF
Freddie Freeman 1B
Martin Pradro 3B
David Ross C
Derek Lowe P   

Just another odd southpaw

When I entered  the clubhouse this morning, I saw Boone Logan’s left hand adorned with gauze. Naturally, I responded with, “Have you been playing with Blaine Boyer’s apple slicer.”

Logan said that he regularly places gauze on his hand in the morning. After imitating Rafael Soriano with a stone-faced reaction, I later saw the big left-handed reliever on the field without any gauze, tape or padding on his hand.  With this I further concluded that southpaws are simply a different species.

Speaking of left-handers, Garret Anderson was moving around the clubhouse with relative ease this morning and he said his strained right calf has progressively improved over the past few days.  After seeing him lift his leg and bend over to pick up his keys with relative ease, I think we can project that he’ll likely be in the Opening Day lineup.

Fortunately for Anderson, he hasn’t felt the urge to start jumping around like Jair Jurrjens did after the Netherlands defeated the Dominican Republic again on Tuesday night. 

“I’m surprised that nobody called the cops on me,” said Jurrjens, who opted not to pitch for the Netherlands during the first round of the WBC. 

Jurrjens wanted to pitch in the second round this weekend.  But in order to do so, he would have had to replace a injured pitcher from the current roster.  When he never received word that this opportunity had arisen, the 23-year-old right-hander prepared for this afternoon’s start against the Nationals.

If the Netherlands continues their miracle run, Jurrjens might join the team for the semi-final round.  But as great as this story has been, I think we can all assume that it’s nearing its end.

Remember Dennis Neuman, the Pedro Martinez-clone, that I was heralding after watching him pitch a scoreless inning for the Netherlands against the D.R. on Saturday?  Well he’s obviously also subject to the jinx factor of this blog. 

But after issuing two walks in Monday’s loss to Puerto Rico, the 19-year-old Red Sox farmhand came back Tuesday and tossed 1 2/3 innings scoreless innings against the D.R.

“He’s going to be good,” said Jurrjens, who worked out with Neuman in their native Curacao this winter.  “He has heart and he knows what he wants.”

Now that I’ve exhausted my charitable Dennis Neuman public relations campaign, it’s time to return to Braves info.  Jordan Schafer opened some eyes when he returned yesterday and the highly-regarded outfield propsect is back in today’s lineup to serve as the right fielder. 

Matt Diaz and Jeff Francoeur were permitted to go home after this morning’s workout.  Both are scheduled to travel to Jupiter for this weekend’s two-game series against the Cardinals and Marlins. 

As for me, I’m not making the southbound trek down the Florida Turnpike.  But I’ll likely post at least one blog entry on Friday or Saturday.  Tommy Hanson is scheduled to start tomorrow’s game against the Marlins and Kenshin Kawakami will go against the Cardinals on Saturday.

After Jurrjens exits today’s game, we’ll place our focus on Mike Gonzalez and Kris Medlen, who are both scheduled to pitch.

Today’s Lineup:
Josh Anderson CF
Jordan Schafer RF
Yunel Escobar SS
Casey Kotchman 1B
Omar Infante 2B
Martin Prado 3B
Brandon Jones LF
David Ross C
Jurrjens P
  

Reyes looking to extend pitching dominance

As you know, it’s not wise to put much stock in Spring Training statistics.  But it’s hard to ignore what the Braves pitchers have been doing over the past week.  

During the five games that preceded this afternoon’s contest against the Phillies, Braves starters had worked 19 2/3 innings, surrendered eight hits, allowed two earned runs, recorded 18 strikeouts and issued six walks.  Before you grab your calculator, that equates to a 0.92 ERA.  

The 2.83 ERA the Braves pitching staff has compiled during Grapefruit League play is almost one run better than any other National League team.  In addition, Roger McDowell’s pitchers still haven’t surrendered a homer. (Now that Rother has declared that I’ve placed a jinx on Jo-Jo Reyes this afternoon, I’ll point out that every other NL team has surrendered at least six homers during this exhibition season.) 

It will be nearly impossible for Reyes to duplicate the dominant performance Derek Lowe produced while not allowing the Astros to hit the ball out of the infield yesterday.  But if the young left-hander continues to pitch like he has during his three previous Grapefruit League appearances, the Braves will have even more reason to believe he’s turned the corner.  

Reyes, who went 0-7 with a 7.81 ERA in his final 13 appearances (12 starts) last year, has surrendered one run in nine GL innings.  During his past two outings, he has worked seven scoreless innings, surrendered two hits and issued three walks.  

Realizing that there likely won’t be an available rotation spot for him in Atlanta to start the year, Reyes has had reason to seem more relaxed than he was last year, when he often panicked when he encountered potentially-damaging situations.  

If he continues to pitch effectively, Reyes could certainly prove to be a benefit in Atlanta this year.  The Braves want Tommy Hanson to continue his maturation process in the Minors during the early portion of this season.  If another starter is needed before Hanson is deemed ready, Reyes or Jorge Campillo would be the most likely candidates to move into Bobby Cox’s rotation.

Schafer returns:  Jordan Schafer, who has been sidelined since Feb. 28 with a sprained left shoulder, is back in the lineup today.  Both Cox and general manger Frank Wren said there is still plenty of time for Schafer to make the center field battle interesting.   But it still appears Josh Anderson is clearly the favorite in that battle.

Anderson update:  The Braves still aren’t sure when Garret Anderson might be able to return.  But once again, Cox said he’s hopeful that the veteran outfielder will be in his Opening Day lineup.  

STARTING LINEUP:

Yunel Escobar SS
Jordan Schafer CF
Kelly Johnson 2B
Greg Norton 1B
Jeff Francoeur RF
Matt Diaz LF
Diory Hernandez 3B
Clint Sammons C
Reyes P

Saying hello to old news

I would have started writing this blog sooner if I hadn’t waited 20 minutes for Mike Hampton, only to have the Astros announce that their clubhouse was closed.

Hey when you spent three years waiting for a guy to pitch, I guess you can wait 20 minutes for him to greet you with, “What do you want from me?  I’m old news.”

Speaking of old news, today the Braves released right-handed pitcher Anthony Lerew, who last week had accepted an assignment to Triple-A Gwinnett.  They also re-assigned Emiliano Fruto, Juan Perez and Rafael Cruz to Minor League camp.

Today’s news actually centers around Rafael Soriano, who is scheduled to make his Grapefruit League season debut  against the Astros.  The right-handed reliever reported to camp with an upper respiratory infection and fell behind schedule.  But all indications are that his right elbow is sound and in about an hour we’ll get a chance to make our own evaluations. 

Soriano missed most of last year with elbow soreness that was relieved in August during a surgical procedure that transposed the ulnar nerve of his elbow.  I’ve never transposed and I’m certainly not sure if I even have an ulnar nerve in my elbows.

So I’ll take Soriano’s word that he was dealing with tremendous pain while spending most of the 2008 season on the disabled list.  As he prepares to make $6.1 million in the final year of his contract this year, I’ll also guarantee that we’ll be seeing a lot more of the stone-faced reliever this year.

Derek Lowe will make his third appearance of the GL season today.  Soriano, Blaine Boyer, Boone Logan and Eric O’Flaherty are scheduled to work in relief.

Anderson update:  While the Braves aren’t too concerned about Chipper Jones’ oblique, they are currently a little bit worried about Garret Anderson’s strained right calf.   Bobby Cox said this morning that Anderson might miss anywhere from two weeks to a month.  But at the same time, he indicated that remains hopeful that the veteran outfielder will be in the Opening Day lineup.

Today’s Lineup:
Josh Anderson CF
Matt Diaz LF
Kelly Johnson 2B
Casey Kotchman 1B
Jeff Francoeur RF
Omar Infante SS
Martin Prado 2B
David Ross C
Derek Lowe P 

No reason to panic about Chipper

As Kenshin Kawakami was attempting to build arm strength during today’s
intra-squad game at Disney, Chipper Jones is resting his strained right
oblique muscle in a Toronto hotel. 

While nobody likes to hear
Chipper and the word injury linked in the same sentence, the Braves
don’t seem too concerned.  In fact based on what I’ve been hearing from
Bobby Cox and Jones’ agent, I’d say most of the pain the third baseman
is currently feeling has more to do with the fact that he’s struck out
five times and gone hitless in his first seven World Baseball Classic
at-bats.

Cox and Jones’ agent, B.B. Abbott said they believe
Chipper could return to action within the next few days.  Because the
U.S. has already clinched a spot in this weekend’s second round,
Chipper probably won’t play in the final Pool C game on Wednesday.

Jones exited Sunday night’s game after feeling a slight strain in his right side during his fifth inning at-bat. 

Jones
felt similar discomfort in his right side while taking batting practice
on September 10, 2007.  Initially it was thought that he might miss the
remainder of the season.  But because he took precautionary measures,
he was able to return to the lineup just four days later.  <p>

Back to Kawakami
:
During last Monday’s intra-squad game, Jason Heyward proved to be a
thorn in Jair Jurrjens’ side.  This week, the 19-year-old phenom
introduced his power to Kenshin Kawakami with a towering third-inning
homer that easily cleared the right field wall.

One half-inning earlier, Heyward had drilled an Emiliano Fruto fastball over the left-ceneterfield wall.

At
the beginning of camp, I asked Heyward if his goal was to end this
season with Double-A Mississippi and he said, “no the goal is to end
the year here (in the Majors).  Having had the chance to watch him play
over the past few weeks, I no longer find that comment as ammusing as I
had originally.

Kawakami ended up allowing four runs in four
innings.  He surrendered a first-inning leadoff double to Matt
Kennelly, who scored on consecutive groundouts. 

The two runs Kawakami allowed in the third inning came courtesy of a Freddie Freeman double and Heyward’s towering homer.

Schafer further encouraged:  Jordan
Schafer, who has been sidelined since Feb. 28 with a sprained left
shoulder, felt no limitations while taking soft toss and hitting off of
a tee on Monday morning.  He’ll attempt to take regular batting
practice on Tuesday and possibly play on Wednesday against the
Phillies.

Hanson set to face Phillies

Tommy Hanson has already made Carlos Lee feel helpless while looking at two called third strikes this year.  He’ll attempt to do the same to Ryan Howard this afternoon at Disney.  Mike Gonzalez and Peter Moylan are also scheduled to face the Phillies.

Hanson’s third appearance of the exhibition season will prolong an already eventful day at Disney.  Garret Anderson is still limping and Jordan Schafer is once again smiling about the health of his left shoulder. 

As for Tom Glavine, he felt better about the arm strength he displayed while throwing a live batting practice session this morning.  He’s shooting to pitch in a simulated game on March 16.

Anderson, who strained his right calf on Friday night, was still walking with a definite limp on Sunday afternoon.  He’s not a man of many words and he’s not saying when he might be able to return to the lineup.  But I think you can assume he is going to be sidelined for two weeks.

Anderson doesn’t possess the youthful advantages provided Freddie Freeman, who is back in this afternoon’s lineup.  Bobby Cox had indicated the 19-year-old first baseman might need a few more days to rest his strained right quad. 

Schafer, who has been sidelined since Feb. 28 with a strained left shoulder, didn’t feel any pain while taking approximately 30 dry swings on Sunday morning.  He’ll take regular batting practice on Monday and possibly return to the lineup on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Today’s Lineup: 

Omar Infante CF
Martin Prado 3B
Kelly Johnson 2B
Freddie Freeman 1B
Yunel Escobar SS
Jeff Francoeur RF
Brandon Jones LF
Clint Sammons  C
Tommy Hanson P

Refreshed after a day of relaxation

Had he opted to pitch for The Netherlands in the World Baseball Classic, Jair Jurrjens probably started this afternoon’s game against the Dominican Republic.  Had the result proven to be the same, he certainly would have loved the opportunity to celebrate the tremendous upset with his Dutch teammates.

But from what I hear (remember, I decided to take the day off), Jurrjens also had every reason to enjoy this afternoon’s outing against the Yankees.  He allowed one earned run and four hits in 3 2/3 innings.  While recording three strikeouts without issuing a walk, he seemingly displayed better control than he had in his two previous outings. 

After getting knocked around by Jason Heyward during Monday’s inter-squad game, Jurrjens was visibly frustrated. His ability to make adjustments and enjoy this improvement five days later further proves why so many of us believe this 23-year-old right-hander has such a bright future. 

He doesn’t possess a single pitch that will impress you more than his mental makeup. 

Jurrjens’ native Curacao’s talent pool is much greater than those days when it basically solely conisted of Andruw Jones and Randall Simon. 

The latest Curacao product to catch my eyes was Dennis Neuman, the 19-year-old right-hander who pitched today’s eighth inning against the D.R.  He’s currently making his way through the Red Sox system.

It was nice to see McCann get off to a good start with his three-RBI game while hitting eighth in today’s win over Canada.   His fourth-inning, two-run homer gave the U.S. a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.

Here are some of his quotes from today’s postgame press conference: 

(About the pitch he hit over the right field wall)

McCANN:  He was one of those pitchers that located all his pitches and kind of pitched backwards.  You get ahead in the count, you know he is going to throw you a slider.  You are behind, he is going try to sneak a fastball by you.
    So I went up there looking for something to hit, and, luckily, I got something in the innerhalf, and I didn’t miss it.

(About hitting eighth in today’s lineup)

McCANN:  You know, I was saying before Davey (Johnson)_asked if I ever hit eighth, I said I’ll hit 12th in this lineup.  I mean, it’s an unbelievable lineup.  Just a great team to be part of.

(About the patriotic honor of playing for the U.S.)
 
McCANN:  I mean, this is every kid’s dream, to put on a U.S.A. jersey, and especially walking in that clubhouse.  I mean, the first couple days we were in Clearwater, I mean, it was like, it was surreal, looking around the clubhouse and seeing all the talent that’s in that one locker room.  And, you know, hopefully we can all come together and, you know, try to win this thing. 
 
 
 

 
 
.

 

 

Taking a look at the bullpen

Does the art of in-office procrastination remain enjoyable when you are overwhelmed by stories about T.O. and A-Rod?  Just wondering and assuming that you guys are ready to do some debating before the Braves stage “Bullpen Audition Night” tonight. 

This isn’t exactly a reality-show type competition.  When Jeff Bennett, Boone Logan, Manny Acosta and Phil Stockman face the Astros tonight, one of them isn’t necessarily going to be voted off of Disney Island.  But if they were to perform like Jeff Ridgway has recently, they certainly could be subject to the type of criticism that would make Simon Cowell proud. 

In two appearances, Ridgway has recorded a total of three outs, allowed seven earned runs, issued four walks and surrendered five hits. For Triple-A Gwinnett manager Dave Brundage’s sake, let’s hope things turn around for the left-handed reliever once the regular season begins.

There are still plenty of questions to answer about this year’s bullpen.  But a little more than a week into the Grapefruit League season, we can at least speculate about what it will look like on Opening Day.

Assuming that they prove to be healthy, I’d say that Moylan and Soriano join Mike Gonzalez and Blaine Boyer as the current locks to begin the season in Atlanta’s bullpen.

Boone Logan and Eric O’Flaherty are the top candidates to serve as the left-handed middle relievers and I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if Cox carries both to begin the season.  When you’re fighing in a division that includes Ryan Howard, Carlos Delgado, Adam Dunn and Chase Utley, you can’t ever have enough lefties in your pen.

Assuming Logan and O’Flaherty will both begin the season in the bullpen, Buddy Carlye, Jorge Campillo, Acosta, Bennett and Stockman could find themselves fighting for the final available spot.

If Bobby Cox wants to keep a long-relief guy, Carlye might be chosen over Campillo, simply because the club might want Campillo to start the season at Gwinnett and remained conditioned as a starter in case he’s needed before Tommy Hanson is officially deemed ready for the Majors.

Of course if Jo-Jo Reyes continues to pitch like he has during his first two appearances, the Braves could choose to use him as their safety net and allow Campillo to start the year in Atlanta.  But let’s not forget that Carlyle was rock solid last year, minus two appearances that occurred right after the All-Star break.

If Moylan is available and capable of regaining his pre-TJ surgery form, the Braves may be less inclined to begin the year with Jeff Bennett as their late-inning groundball speciailist.  Moylan’s versatility arguably makes him the most important piece to this bullpen.

Even though he’s out of options, I’d still have to view Stockman as a longshot to start the year in the Atlanta bullpen.  I’m also putting have Acosta in that same category.

All of these projections come with the assumption that Moylan and Soriano will both be healthy at the start of this season.  With that being said, this certainly isn’t a guarantee. 

In fact, the only thing I’d be willing to guaranteed right now is that one or more of these relievers fighting for one of the final bullpen spots will be traded before the start of the regular season.  There are plenty of teams looking for economical bullpen solutions and they’ll be calling the Braves in the very near future.

- Mark Bowman 

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