Odds and ends from Day 4 at Braves camp

After Bobby Cox surprised his players by saying that he felt nervous while delivering this morning’s annual preseason speech, Jason Heyward lived up to expectations with an impressive power display during his first on-field batting practice session of the year. 

Well I guess you could argue that assistant general manager Bruce Manno wasn’t exactly expecting Heyward to drill his car with one of the many titantic shots that soared over the right field wall. 

But enough about what Heyward did against the batting practice pitches delivered by Terry Pendleton, who playfully threw behind the 20-year-old outfielder after nearly being hit with a liner that was torpedoed itself into the protective screen in front of the mound. 

The day’s most significant news centered around the signing of Edward Salcedo, the highly-regarded, 18-year-old Dominican shortstop.  At a cost of $1.6 million, the Braves believe that they secured one of the best available players in the international market. 

This deal was completed with a handshake last week.  But after the young shortstop’s agent then seemingly started soliciting other offers, Braves director of international scouting Johnny Almaraz went directly through Salcedo to get the deal completed. 

Some Braves talent evaluators have compared the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Salcedo to Hanley Ramirez. While it remains to be seen whether the kid can live up to this lofty comparison, there’s certainly reason to believe that he would have equated to a top 10 draft selection this year. 

Based on the way the Braves handled Yunel Escobar and many of their other young stars, I think it’s safe to assume that Salcedo will spend a majority of this season with Class A Rome.

Unless he utterly terrorizes the South Atlantic League, there’s little reason to believe that he would be rushed to Myrtle Beach this year.

Jurrjens update:  Jair Jurrjens played catch from a distance of 60 feet today and felt better than he did while completing this same exercise on Sunday.  If he feels good when he awakes on Wednesday, he’ll begin playing long toss and then possibly begin playing off the mound early next week. This still presents the possibility that he’d be ready for the start of the regular season. 

Jurrjens is feeling a slight pinch in the front of his shoulder when he releases the baseball.  But he has been encouraged that the discomfort level has steadily subsided over the last week. 

Lighter Prado: 
With assistance from the P90X nutrition plan, Martin Prado lost 14 pounds during the offseason and reported to camp noticeably leaner than he was last year.  This should certainly help increase his range at second base. 

Prado, who spent the offseason with his girlfriend here in the Orlando area, is happy to currently have his mother in the United States.  She will have to return to Venezuela next month, but will be permitted to return in June for an additional five months. 

This is obviously encouraging news for Prado, who began experiencing exertional headaches in August, while dealing with the stress he felt when his mother had to return to Venezuela.

Diory injured:
If you hadn’t already, you can erase Diory Hernandez from the list of candidates to fill one of the final roster spots.   The infielder injured his left shoulder while sliding into a base while playing in the Dominican Winter League.

Hernandez said he will begin hitting off a tee again in about a month.  But the club doesn’t believe he’ll be ready to resume playing for at least another 3-4 months. 

Murph’s neighbor:
When you look at the power numbers that Mitch Jones produced during his Minor League career, there’s reason to believe he would be physically imposing.  But the 32-year-old outfielder is just your run-of-the-mill 6-foot, 215 pound player, who obviously finds a way to generate power with his swing. 

Jones, who led the Minors with 35 homers last year, said that he has theorized his power is a product of the many hours he spent helping his dad screen print t-shirts in the family-owned screen printing shop. 

“I grew up a long time in a screen printing shop, screen printing shirts,” Jones said. “So I don’t know, maybe my hands got stronger.”

Jones’ Orem, Utah home is located just a few blocks away from Dale Murphy’s residence.  He said that he often runs into Murph at the local high school or Home Depot. 

Murphy is expected to be in camp within the next couple of weeks.  This year’s other special spring instructors will include Phil Niekro, Gene Garber and the always-popular Javy Lopez.     

15 Comments

Hey Mark, I’m curious if you are willing to include some predictions? Maybe you’ve already done this, but I’ve been lurking pretty good and didn’t see much.

Who do you think will fill out the bullpen? Who will be on the bench? The bench is a softball, but the bullpen is gonna be tough.

Oh, and you said “Jurrjens has a chance to be on time to start the season.” Or something like that. That means there is a big chance he WON’T be ready. Who will fill in for one or two starts? Will they stretch out Medlen just to have him go to the bullpen, or will they just stick in some lucky AAA guy and give him a go or two? Maybe Redmond or even really crazy and one of other kids? Please don’t tell me Reyes.

I also wanted to comment on my previous post… apparently, while I was gone, I also forgot to type. (The previous post … on… another of the posts posted. Not the post immediately preceding this one. Wow, I’m retarded. Never mind.)

Honestly neverwhere, I think it’s pretty hard to guess who might be filling that final roster spot for a position player. Heyward’s status will factor heavily into what kind of player will fill the final spots.

If Heyward to start the year in the Minors, we might actually see Gregor Blanco and Joe Thurston fill the final spots. Blanco once again enjoyed a great winter in Venezuela (MVP in the playoffs) and has provided reason to wonder what he would get out of a return to Gwinnett.

With Heyward in the Majors, this club is much better and much more well-rounded. With the versatility provided by Cabrera and Hinske, there is seemingly a greater need to fill the final spot with an infielder.

Diory might have actually been a strong candidate. With him out of the equation, the battle could be between Brooks Conrad and Joe Thurston.

As for the bullpen, I think it includes Wagner, Saito, Moylan, O’Flaherty and Medlen. The best guess to win the final two spots would include Jesse Chavez and Mike Dunn to serve as a second lefty.

Is there a Neverwhere to English dictionary? Hey, if we want a little depth to add to the last charge of Cox’s Cavalry, there is one old warhorse yet to be saddled. Right now, John Smoltz is sitting in his stall waiting for a mere bucket of oats and ready to run once more for the roses. What could be more perfect than having John in the dugout for the last pennant charge? We could sign him for the same amount as we pay less informed coaches and he would provide security so we don’t have to burn out our great young arms. Plus can you imagine having him there if we really make a run at Bobby’s last shot for glory. What a story, the great ones and the young phenoms combine to make a magic season. God, I love this time of year, when all things are possible.

Smoltz schmaltz.

Sorry Neverwhere. It was just a playful jab. It was that one post that didn’t seem to contain a sentence. I mean, I’ve posted here after a toddy or two but this…..
“I also wanted to comment on my previous post… apparently, while I was gone, I also forgot to type. (The previous post … on… another of the posts posted. Not the post immediately preceding this one. Wow, I’m retarded. Never mind.)”

Uh oh, there goes the time stamp bizarro Bowman Blog again.

Thanks, billreef. It’s so loving here.

I agree that the final spot definitely depends on Heyward, but I am operating under the assumption that he’s already won the spot, the rest is just a formality. That might not be exactly true, but I’m going with that.

I’d like to see Conrad given a shot, but I’m not sure if he’ll work out. He was great last season, and perhaps he can excel in a bench role, especially if he fills in gaps when Glaus/Chipper are out. Thurston is an interesting project but I’m not sure if he’ll just continue his run of mediocrity or actually create results.

What do you think of Scott Proctor? He seems like a workhorse, and you reported earlier that his rehab was going well, according to Cox.. but what does that mean for the bullpen?

I’m also interested in long term Salcedo plans, but I’m getting ahead of myself. I’ll reserve comment on Smoltz. He wants to be a starter, anyway, and we’ve got enough of those and then some. If Jurrjens goes down… maybe. MAYBE.

Man am I excited about baseball this year.

…I don’t think I missed any keys this time, at least.

Smoltz has already said he would consider a reliever role. I mean we could get him cheaper than we pay Omar Infante. What’s the risk? that he won’t pitch any better than KK or Derek? He would make $2M slightly more than Jo-Jo Reyes. Who would you rather give that roster spot to?

Hey, Smoltzie is probably my favorite pitcher of all time. I would love to have him back, but you know how he is. You think he would take a middle/long relief job? MAYBE if they were already on their way to the playoffs.

I agree with vivabeta about Smoltzie taking a relief job for two reasons, he knows how Bobby abuses middle relievers and he wants to be the star as a closer. Spahnie never believed that he was done until a final awful season either.
Nice comment about the “less informed coaches” billreef, TP comes immediately to mind.

If all the stars align, I would love to see Smoltzie back. However, I’m pretty sure you won’t see him end up anywhere until about mid season ala Pedro Martinez last season.

With the off days in the Braves first three weeks of the regular season, they don’t “need” a fifth starter until the end of the fourth time through the rotation, on April 24 in New York. Maybe the extra 3 weeks will give JJ time to heal.

Mark – Mitch Jones’ story really has me intrigued. The guy has put up monster power numbers in college and the minors. His rbi / home run totals are ridiculous. His slugging % and OPS numbers are decent too. He does have a lot of strikeouts (I think once every 3.8 or 4 at bats)… but is that the main reason he hasn’t gotten a taste of the show??? There has to be more to it than that. How do you feel about his chances this year? You gotta pull for a guy like that to finally get a chance. He had a cup of coffee with the Dodgers last year and hit over .300 in like 15 at bats. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Bravo I’m with you on the Mitch Jones thing. Mark Reynolds and Ryan Howard combine for over 400 Ks a year, so maybe in this era that is what goes with power numbers now, post PED. I think part of it has been his inconsistency, but he would make an interesting pinch hitter off the bench. Certainly more than Thurston would. Albuquerque has a way of making everyone look like a slugger, but Jones has been doing it for years now. He probably brings more to the table than Brooks Conrad does as well, but I don’t know, there is something about Brooks that is very hard not to cheer for.

I’ll reserve my annual Blanco rants until it looks like he has lucked his way into the mix again, but folks, he wasn’t one of the top 3 outfielders in Gwinnett last year. Schafer would have to grow a Manny do and get another 50 game suspension before I would EVER consider drawing the BLANK on purpose again.

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