Chavez impresses and Proctor appears to be ahead of schedule
The Braves enhanced the depth of their bullpen this past offseason and while watching his pitchers throw during their first official workout of the season, Braves manager Bobby Cox came away impressed by a number of the new acquisitions.
After Saturday’s workout concluded, Cox said he was impressed with what he saw from his closer Billy Wagner and his primary setup man Takashi Saito. But he also had high praise for Jesse Chavez, the right-handed reliever who was acquired in exchange for Rafael Soriano in December.
“I remember how hard he threw, but I didn’t know he had that changeup,” Cox said of Chavez. “The way he threw it today, it looked like he’d been throwing it forever, with the location and the break.”
Chavez made an impression on Brian McCann, who labeled the reliever one of the toughest guys he faced last year. Now he’ll be spending the next couple of weeks attempting to win one of the final available spots in the bullpen.
Wagner, Saito, Peter Moylan, Eric O’Flaherty and Kris Medlen are in position to account for five of the seven available bullpen spots. Chavez, Craig Kimbrel, Luis Valdez and surprisingly Scott Proctor appear to be in position to battle for the final two spots.
While Valdez wasn’t present on Saturday because of visa problems that are preventing him from getting to the United States, Proctor impressed Cox with a 50-pitch bullpen session that served as part of the rehab process that has followed the Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgical process he underwent in May.
Originally, the Braves didn’t think Proctor would be available during the first month of the upcoming season. But Cox said the veteran right-handed reliever might be ready to be part of the Opening Day roster.
“He’s going to have plenty of time,” Cox said. “We’re going to get him out there as much as we can. I think he will be ready out of camp. If he’s not, he’ll be real close.”
Cox said based on his velocity, Proctor seems to be ahead of where Peter Moylan was during the first week of camp last year. As you likely remember, Moylan returned from this same surgical process in time to be part of the Opening Day roster.
Saito and Kawakami chose not to throw live batting practice during the first day of workouts. Instead both Japanese pitchers opted to get all their work in during 10-minute bullpen sessions.