Going to continue doubting Kawakami

When I got downstairs after last night’s game, one of the female Japanese reporters looked at me with one of those sarcastic smiles.  Confident that I didn’t have a “kick me” poster sitting on my back, I simply responded with a “yeah, yeah, yeah.”

Seeing no reason to end a good thing, I don’t see any reason for me to allow one of the guttiest and impressive pitching performances provided by a Braves pitcher this year to stop me from casting doubt in Kenshin Kawakami’s direction. 

I mean it’s not like that Dodgers lineup that he dominated for seven innings on Saturday night even leads the Los Angeles area in batting average.  Last time I checked they rank second in the Majors in that category behind the mighty Angels. 

Nor is it like he’s even been able to match the 3.38 ERA that the heralded Jair Jurrjens has posted since the start of May.  But I guess I will at least concede that the 3.46 ERA that Kawakami has posted during this span is at least better than the 4.42 ERA that Derek Lowe has compiled.

And seriously isn’t it still easier to put more faith in the surgically-repaired right elbow of Tim Hudson than it is that fatigued one that allowed Kawakami to end his 125-pitch effort with consecutive strikeouts with the bases loaded last night? 

While I’ll attempt to continue to help Kawakami by continuing to doubt him, I’m going to have to end this sarcastic rant to provide you some news. 

Hudson will throw a bullpen session on Monday and if all goes well, he’ll resume his Minor League rehab assignment by starting for Triple-A Gwinnett on Thursday night.

As things currently stand, I would have to think Hudson likely won’t return to the Major League roster until it expands in September.  At that time, the Braves will have to decide whether there’s a logical place for him in there rotation. 

Before Saturday night, the logical assumption was that Hudson would simply replace Kawakami.  But as long as the Japanese hurler is able to overcome his troublesome right shoulder every five days, can you really take him out of the rotation and replace him with somebody who hasn’t faced Major Leaguers for more than a year.

The Braves will say, “these things always work themselves out” and they often do. But for now, you have to at least wonder if the best course of action is to get Hudson stretched out to serve as a starter and then allow him to fortify the bullpen if there isn’t a logical spot to place him in the rotation. 

McLouth sits during finale:  While chasing down a seemingly uncatchable ball in right-centerfield during Saturday’s 10th inning, Nate McLouth tweaked his right hamstring.  Thus Ryan Church made his second straight start in center field during Sunday’s series finale at Dodger Stadium.

McLouth and Chipper Jones (strained left oblique) will both be evaluated when the Braves resume play at Turner Field on Tuesday. 

Infante could return Tuesday:  Braves manager Bobby Cox indicated that Omar Infante could be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday.  Infante, who has been out since May 20 with a broken left hand, has spent the past week playing for Class A Rome.

Happy Birthday Heyward
: Early indications show that Jason Heyward isn’t nearly as good as he was when he was a teenager.   As I write this sentence, he’s gone hitless in his first four at-bats for Double-A Mississippi.  This obviously isn’t the way the top prospect envisioned celebrating his 20th birthday.

In the 30 games he’d played for Mississippi entering Sunday, Heyward had hit .422 with five homers, a .504 on-base percentage and a .725 slugging percentage.

When told of these numbers, Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton said, “Is that all?”

Braves general manager Frank Wren spent the past few days watching Heyward and likely gaining a better sense about when it might be best to promote highly-regarded prospect to Gwinnett.  

47 Comments

Heyward homered in his last at bat.

Hey Rother, PW and the rest of you that have been around since Spring Training, I guess Heyward has proven that this blog’s jinx is still in place….Thanks for the update nspencer

Man, I would start a “Vasquez for Cy Young” campaign but I think Lincecum would have to lose the rest of his starts for it to get consideration.Little Freak. I do like our pitching right now. Who would have thought that at this point in our season Lowe would be considered the weak link?

Since I’m in New York I have to listen to a lot of NY baseball radio. I like how Mike Francesca was talking about the Mets’ staff and fielding calls about how signing Oliver Perez was a bad move and responded with “who else could we have gotten? Derek Lowe? He has been awful this year.” HA! Maybe he was just comparing him to the rest of the Atlanta rotation. With the exception of a few bad starts Lowe has obviously been pretty good. Especially when compared to Perez.

Oh and Mark, that’s a blog jinx that I can deal with.

Yep Mark, that’s just the way it works. If I talk bad about a guy he goes on a tear. Kelly Johnson owes me lunch by now for talking him down a couple weeks ago.
The only thing Heyward has left to do in AA is pick up bad habits. I cannot wait to have him in Gwinnett or Atlanta (or both) for the stretch run(s). That’s 107 ABs with a .411 AVG, and he now leads the team in HRs with 6 (scary that Mississippi is that void of power).
Hey Frank, send Heyward to Gwinnett for a birthday present, it really is time.

4.5 back from the Phillies, 3.5 back from the wild card. Mark, write something about how the Braves have no chance to win the East.

Kawakami is a great competitor, I am very impressed that he has not given any excuses during his rough stretches. I still believe, and have posted on here a couple of times before, when Kawakami adapts to the US style ball and develops the arm endurance needed for a 5-man rotation, he will be a major cog in the wheels of the Braves system. It’s just hard to not be skeptical when you have such amazing pitching as we have had this year. What a great situation that we have where we have no idea where to insert a former Cy Young award winner into our rotation. If the Braves are not able to reach the post season this year, they have at least set the framework for a great future with a solid pitching staff. At this point, Frank Wren’s idea to strengthen our starting rotation is a great success. . . . and with how we are starting to swing the bats this Braves team will be tough to keep out of the post season. I feel that the games upcoming with the Phils will be the main determinate. We are unfortunate to play the Nats this week (Never thought I would say that), they are playing probably their best baseball ever.

As long as KK pitches like that we have a great chance for the Playoffs.He needs to keep pitching quickly like he did that night .Right when he gets the ball back from B-Mac/Umpire .He needs to work quickly .To me he looked like he was on his game when pitching quickly .Great game for the Braves .We needed that win ,3 out of 4 is good .Not gonna be negative on that 1st game loss .It happens ,all you can do is gear up and go after the next 3 games and the Braves done that .Way to go Bravo’s ! Keep it up !

I HAVE ONE QUESTION WHATS GONNA HAPPEN WHEN OFANTE COMES BACK, IS KJ GONNA GET LESS AT BATS OR HIS HE GONNA PUT OFANTE IN LF AND PLACE DIAZ IN RF VS LEFTIES. PLEASE SOMEONE TELL ME.

I would not be suprised to see Hernandez be sent down. I think Norton is the popular vote, but he is a veteran, experienced pinch hitter, and bats from both sides of the plate. Hernandez is a rookie that hasn’t quite come around with his bat. I assume Hernandez will spend the rest of the month in Gwinnet until roster expansions come around. I think an even better question would be who Buddy Carlyle will replace when he returns to the roster.

Infante will spend some time in LF spelling Anderson, who has been playing every day (and not supposed to be). He will also provide some relief for Escobar. He will also cover SS or 3rd if any of Yunel’s or Chipper’s nagging injuries resurface. The drop off between Escobar and Infante is not that great offensively. Hernandez did his best, but could never hit major league pitching.

Things are looking good, but they still have a long way to go. Need to sweep the Nats.

Mark, That curse works on DOB’s blog too. All day he said, “Things are looking up for the Braves.” And WHAM Manny hit a check swing double.Anyways. Infante will replace Diory, and Carlyle will replace Logan, I can only assume. Billreef, You should start a Vasquez4NLCY account. Then we can be best friends =)

There’s no way you can win a division when you’ve got Acosta in your bullpen and unable to get 3 outs in a seven-run game. And seriously how can you really expect to catch the Phillies when once again today you only get one run after loading the bases with nobody out?

OK all kidding aside, I just called the jinx gods and they informed me that with tomorrow’s offday, I have a 24-hour window to provide some inconsequential compliments. And with that, I’ll have to say this was one of the most impressive three-day stretches I’ve seen during my nine years on this beat.

To overcome the sting of Thursday’s loss, claim that comeback win on Friday, tip-toe around 10th-inning disaster on Saturday and then cap the trip in authoritative fashion was very impressive. Oh yeah and they did all of this without Chipper.

This club is fun to watch and there’s no doubt that this weekend’s events could prove to have a beneficial effect for many weeks to come. But first they have to find a way to beat the Nats.

Jurrjens I think you’re correct about the Diory/Infante combo. But I’m pretty sure Acosta put himself in the doghouse this afternoon and made himself a good candidate to be replaced by Buddy…Cox didn’t say anything, but then again does he really have to? You can argue that he should have used Logan instead of Moylan to get that last out today. But remove yourself from that thought and focus on the fact that Acosta put him in that position to call upon Moylan and you understand why I’m at least thinking Logan is on more solid ground at this point in time.

With the way things have gone this season, i’m more worried about the series with Washington than Philadelphia. . . .weird. However, with the way that we are handling ourselves right now, I think we should be able to play some pretty good baseball over the next couple of weeks. With the pitching producing at playoff caliber levels, we just have to put in on the guys up at the plate to get the job done. It’s great to have a guy like Johnson heat up, he’s going to be a great bat off of the bench, as he proved the other day with the two-run dinger. Especially, with Chipper ailing…

Hopefully the Braves play well against Washington and make up some ground in the wild card standings. The Rockies are playing the Cubs and the Giants playing the Dodgers this week.

Mark.
First off, with LaRoche almost certainly leaving next year, who is gonna play 1st? We have a limited amount of money and we need OF help and possibly 2-3 RP’s, 1 being a Closer.

Mark you should start talking about how good the Marlins and Phillies are.

Heck, actually start tomorrow’s blog off with “The Nationals are are about to sweep the Braves” and let’s see how that goes

So, Now I know where all the “kick Kawakami” comes from!
It is interesting that you can cover up your character weaknesses by using them to put the burden of proof on the other party. Typical childish way of thinking.

Actually I cover up my character weaknesses with “Kick Kawakami” signs. Now that was certainly a childish response, wasn’t it?

Sorry, Daito I follow what your saying about me sending a message. But I have to say there are some very intelligent baseball minds that frequent this blog and I think they more than capable of drawing their own assessments about a player’s value to the team.

Plus if you’ve followed this blog on a regular basis you’ll know that I’ve given Kawakami credit when it’s due. I think I’ve done the same with Garret Anderson.

This is simply a forum where the natural highs and lows of a baseball season are discussed and like I said previously, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a number of intelligent baseball minds choose to converse and argue within this forum.

When the Dodgers lose three in a row, Tommy Lasorda has to leave town. As I was sitting here at my gate waiting for my red-eye flight, I saw Lasorda walking to board a flight heading for Cleveland.

And to think when I was a kid watching The Baseball Bunch, I was under the impression that “The Dugout Wizard” magically flew where ever he wanted without the assistance of a commercial carrier.

wow. this seems to be a great site with lots of really informed discussion of Braves facts and ideas. I really like this Jurrjens4 NLCY guy he seems to be quite well informed. I am not sure laroche is leaving. There might have been some deer stand discussions that would lead the braves to believe that he wants to play here past this year. The waiver wires must be buzzing. Anybody know if a big Right handed bat has been tendered? Would Liberty stretch their wallet a little for a pennant run? Can we beat the stinking Nationals?

Good idea Darion, but I think there might be some people that think I’m serious. I mean the Nationals have won 16 of the 27 games they’ve played against the Braves over the past two years and they are coming to Atlanta with an eight-game winning streak.

When I told Chipper today that since the start of 2008 the Braves have produced an identical 11-16 record against the Phils and Nats, he said, “Dude there’s no way. We were 4-14 against the Phillies last year.”

Actually the Braves lost 14 of the first 16 games they played against the Phillies last year and have since won nine of 11 against them.

Mark,

It doesn’t surprise me at all that Tommy was schlepping it commercial. He has always been a guy of the people. I have had the privilege of meeting him and although the Dodgers were always Public Enemy No. 1 (when we played in the NL West) I have always respected the guy enormously. Anyone who loves baseball as much as Tommy is aces in my book. I spent more than a couple years at Dodgertown to open spring training and one of the biggest thrills was to see Tommy and Bobby, the old soldiers. I really think that is what make baseball so special. Time honored heroes, still on the field, because of the “love of the game’.

Yea I agree with Vazquez4NLCY about the LaRoche issue. It’s extremely doubtful that Freeman will be ready to take over at first so LaRoche should probably be there next season.
Mark: I realize that it’s unreasonable to expect Heyward to come up next season and lead the league in HRs but many would agree with me that he would be an offensive upgrade over Anderson in Left. Furthermore, the Braves have stated that they will only keep one of either Vazquez or Hudson after this offseason… That being said, what are the chances that Wren will use the money freed up by the departure of one of them to try and add that elusive power bat at 2nd base instead of the outfield? In the form of someone along the lines of Mark DeRosa, who happens to be a free agent??

Oh and one last thing. Could you provide an update on Jordan Schafer and his injury? It seems like he’s been on the 7-day DL for years.. I was counting on a Schafer-McLouth 1-2 punch at the top of the lineup for next season but that is looking less and less likely.

Braves won’t go this route but they should, as far as pitching plans for the next two weeks. Having three off days between now and Aug 25th makes this plan doable.

First off put KK on the DL(shoulder fatigue) retro to Aug 8th his last start.

Recall Carlyle in his place. Go with 4 starters and 8 arms out of the pen for now. Keeps Logan up as the 3rd lefty which could be important against the Phllies.

Braves would need one spot start from someone(Reyes?/ Medlen) on Tuesday August 18th in New York.

The other 4 starters would work on regular rest until KK returns on Aug 23rd.

Plenty of benefits, Braves get to basicaly carry 8 relievers for a short period of time. KK gets some rest for his shoulder and returns rested for the final week of Aug and all of Sept.

Would be rather easy in terms of shuffling personnel.

Tuesday Aug 11th- KK to the 15 day DL(retroed) Carlyle recalled.

Tuesday Aug 18th- Reyes recalled for one spot start against Mets. Either Logan or Acosta optioned to AAA.

Wednesday Aug 19th-Ryeyes optioned back to AAA and either Valdez or Parr recalled as the 8th arm in the pen for a short time.

Sun Aug 23rd-KK returns from DL and the last reliever recalled gets optioned to AAA.

Like I said Braves probably won’t go this route but they really should.

Lowe, Jurrjens,Vasquez and Hanson all work on normal rest for the entire period KK is DL’ed.

davidatl14, I’m not going argue your point, but can you imagine the stress that one spot start from Reyes will place on the bullpen when he’s forced to leave after a few innings of getting bludgeoned by the opposing team? It’d take the bullpen days to recover. :)

I agree, if Reyes hasn’t won in two years, running him out there against the Phillies would be a freebee the Braves can’t afford to give away. He flat out has not earned a trip to Atlanta. Medlen maybe, but again it is a 4 inning start waiting to happen.
Just do a straight up Carlyle for Acosta swap if we have to bring Buddy up before September 1, which I don’t think we need to do.
Infante in, Diory Hernandez out, SS for SS, easy enough.
Norton only has to survive 3 more weeks to get to September, and I can’t see Bobby cutting him loose like that now.
I’ve got to believe LaRoche is planning on coming back next season. The Braves can give him a 1 or 2 year deal around what he is making now and he should take it.

My last comment was the night Soriano blew the save against the Dodgers. I said something to the effect of “this game was the difference of a team of winners destined for October baseball vs. a team still looking for an identity that can’t put games away when it counts.” (I’m paraphrasing). The “barrysbravesboys” followed up with the comment by adding that the next 3 games will determine what kind of heart this team has and what kind of fight is their (paraphrasing again)…
The next three nights we not only overcame the gut-wrenching loss… but a heart breaking homer and a terrible call, another extra-inning game, and put the dagger in the series by putting up 6 insurance runs in the 9th yesterday. As a team, we came up with the timely hits, runs, solid starting, and bullpen… It was completely a team effort and everyone contributed. My hats off to Kelly Johnson as well. I’ve been his biggest critic on this blog and he is sticking to me. I’m loving every minute of it.
This team turned the corner this week and momentum is on our side. We believe now. I’m proud of my team!
Keep the momentum going!!!

Anybody else notice Kotchman looks like a JV player on Boston? That certainly wasn’t the trade he was hoping for.

What he said…..Go Braves!!!

Mark, no offense, but you should have more faith in your own players & ballclub. We need all the support we can get right now. Doubting a guy in the rotation is not the appropriate action for our fans. Btw, unrelated but still pertinent to the Braves–I wholeheartedly believe we need to bring up Jason Heyward in September. I know that it will start his arbitration clock but he could boost the Braves lineup like a then 19 year old Andruw Jones did back in the day when he breezed through the minor leagues. Any guess on the other Braves to be added? My guess is:

1) Tim Hudson 2) Barbaro Canizares 3) Brooks Conrad 4) Luis Valdez 5) John Smoltz (as a reliever)–hey a guy can hope

If Smoltz was willing to call Frank Wren and apologize privately for the public crap he said after he orchestrated the entire Red Sox situation, then Frank should consider bringing Smoltz back for the stretch run. If John’s ego again gets in the way, then I’m perfectly comfortable with my 20 years of good memories and a couple months of ranting from a spoiled brat future Hall of Famer that we no longer have to deal with. Smoltz doesn’t owe us fans anything, but he does owe Frank Wren an apology for the way he handled his move to Boston. Respect is a two way street, and Frank Wren has earned some as well.
I would love to see John Smoltz down the stretch for Atlanta this season, I would just be extremely surprised if it happens.

wingatsm, I’m not sure you read deep enough into Mark’s post.

wingatsm – I think Mark’s “doubting” of Kawakami is a little tongue-in-cheek.
Wow Mark – you’re catching some slack on this blog today… what gives? Keep up the good work man. Keep doubting all you want if this is the response the team gives! I publicly doubted KK a few months ago before the night before I attended a Braves vs. Blue Jays game against one Roy Halladay. I ate a lot of joyous crow that night!
Smoltzie and Huddy in the pen down the stretch would make for a great run… and a great end to Smoltzie’s career… but I don’t think Hollywood will script this ending. As a business man, Frank should give Smoltzie a call for two reasons: (1) – The butts in seats factor and (2) – the pub we would get from ESPN. Wren has done a fantastic job, with the only real blimishes being the Smoltzie/Glavine P.R. hiccups. He would save face and make a lot of Braves fans happy plus it would generate some pretty solid revenue and make for a magical post season run if we make it that far…
But I have a feeling pride will get in the way of all that.

Imagine this, we make it to the playoffs and fight to the World Series against the Red Sox we are down 3-2 going into Game 6 after a 3-run rally in the 9th off Papelbon the game goes into the extras forcing us to use Jurrjens (the next days scheduled starter) but we pull it off and win with a Jason Heyward homer. So, now we need someone to start Game 7 and Smoltzie says he will start. It’s a duel Smoltz Vs. Beckett. It’s scoreless until the top of the ninth where with two outs Chip smacks a 0-2 pitch over the Green Monster out of the park. And Smoltz goes back out to finish the ninth but, he loads the bases with noone out and Bobby goes to the bullpen. And none other then Derek Lowe comes out of the bullpen and induces a groundball triple play to end the game!

If only…..

…so would the unicorn on the field appear before that game starts, or afterwards during the celebration?

Why would anyone seek a comment from TP about a hitter? He’s just a placeholder that I’m praying will get a managing job somewhere before Bobby retires. Carlyle returning for anybody leaves me wondering about the decision makers on the team. I guess when getting two pinch hits and getting over .100 has saved Norton for the rest of the season SOB. I hope that we finally solve the Nats and build a little momentum for the rest of the season.

Mark, Why Acosta? Sure he blew up last night, but he’s the only one in the bullpen who can effortlessly throw 96mph. I can anyone can argue, “Yeah. but he can’t gets outs.” And my retort to that is: Yes he can, he just didn’t that one day. Did you guys see him in Milwaukee? I was in attendance and watched him fool those hitters. Logan hasn’t gotten work in a while, and he already have a loogy (who can get out rightys) and a viable lefty closer, I think Logans the odd man out. Also Mark, when I get out of college, can I be your protege?Vasquez4nlcy@live.com, You a rookie? Love the name btw, and thank you, I try to do my best =). LaRoche might resign, but I hear he’s looking for a big contract. I don’t know if we can afford that because of Hudson’s and Vasquez’s huge contracts. I don’t see a another addiction until the offseason. And I think we split the National series.bravesfan4l, Prado has played first a few times this season, if they can’t resign LaRoche. I think he’ll played first during Spring Training and possibly a offseason league. That way he can get some experience. wingatsm, If the Braves had intentions of starting Heyward next year in the bigs, he would be in the lineup now (as his clock wouldn’t start any later). So I expect a mid season 2010 call up. And in September all a lot of people will be called, hopefully everyone you said =). bravesforever16, Love it! Love everything about it!bravomania, lol.

Congrats Mark! “In the Beat Writer category, Bowman’s Blog has developed a very lively community of Braves fans commenting on it.” – Mlblogosphere.Mark was ranked #1 among all beat reporters with a mlblog in July! And on behave on Mark, I’d thank to thank Jurrjens4NLCY for obsessively re-freshing “Markbowman.mlblogs.com” every 30 seconds, and offering his wonderful insight to all of the wonderful posters on here. Thank you Jurrjens4NLCY!

Oops! My ego was showing, sorry.

Hey Mark,
I have a couple questions.

1. What do you think the chances are that Smoltz will be back in a Braves uniform?

2. Do you think that Javier will be back next year?

3. Do you think that LaRoche will resign next year?e

thanks!

I see Smoltz being picked up by the Rangers, Tigers, or US.

I see LaRoche, if he does sign at all, signing a 1 year deal. Unless we want to offer him a mult-year deal and trade Freddie Freeman in the offseason.

I see Kawakami being gone. Hanson is our top prospect, Jurjjens has been the most reliable, Vazquez is our best pitcher right now, and Lowe just signed that huge contract. And we have Hudson, a mainstay in our rotation as the ace for 4 or 5 years now. Plus, id be nice to move his contract(3 Years/23 Million). I say trade Kawakami and Church for Smoltz and Chris Duncan. WE shed payroll and Boston gets another Japanese pitcher they love so much.

No bravomania, they will all ride unicorns back to Atlanta.

Good to hear that Omar will be back soon! Mark, what is your opinion on how the Braves will handle Hudson’s contract next season?

Just looking over the few replies about my DL scenario with KK. Interesting to say the least.

A couple of things though. Medlen isn’t stretched out enough to make a spot start on the 18th.Reyes could probably fare decent against the lowly Mets.

While Reyes isn’t ideal it’s who we have. It would be a spot start nothing more.

For those clamoring for a straight Carlyle/Acosta or Carlyle/Logan swap it AIN’T Happening.

One Carlyle is the far lesser arm of that trio and secondly and most importantly

Carlyle was taken off rehab assignment and OPTIONED to AAA on August 7th.

Wren could have added him(Carlyle) then and rightly chose not to.

Buddy isn’t elgible to return to the parent Club until Aug 18th barring a DL move. That’s why I came up with the scenario about KK.

Like I said it won’t happen. No big deal but Carlyle is in Gwinnett where he will remain until rosters expand Sept 1 unless there is an injury.

My main point was giving KK some rest for his shoulder while having the 3 off days in the next 15 days.

Gives KK rest and keeps him strong for Sept. None of the other quartet of starters would work on short rest with one well placed spot start on Aug 18th.

Will post a new entry shortly. But wanted to throw this stuff out there now. Infante has been activated and Diory was optioned to Gwinnett. Chipper talked his way into tonight’s lineup, which led the Braves to switch Infante to second base and put Kelly Johnson on the bench. LaRoche is getting the night off against a lefty. Prado will play first base tonight. And during BP, McLouth felt some more discomfort in his hammy. So Church will play center tonight.

Shouldn’t be any more changes: New Braves lineup: Church 8, Prado 4, Jones 5, McCann 2, Escobar 6, Anderson 7, Diaz 9, Infante 4, Hanson 1

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